Wooden Learning the Ropes

Freshman Ambrose Wooden, from the Gilman School in Baltimore, Maryland, entered Notre Dame as a highly recruited quarterback. He was picked as a Super Prep All-American and Baltimore Sun offensive player of the year, just to mention a couple of his many awards. However, since fall camp began, Ambrose has been working as a wide receiver. Irish Eyes talked with Ambrose this week about the change in position, plus the adjustment from high school to Notre Dame football.

When asked how the switch from quarterback to wide receiver is going, Ambrose responded, "Oh, working long. Anytime somebody changes positions, you have to learn the basics. It's like me learning a whole new system, and I'm also learning a whole new position, so this year it will be good for me to just get the little things down. Coach Miles and the other receivers know I haven't played receiver before so when they see that I do things wrong, they correct me. So I just go out there every day and try to work on my technique."

Not only is Ambrose making a position change, but moving from high school ball to major college ball is also a challenge. We asked Ambrose how he is adjusting. "Well, you know, everybody is big and everybody is fast, so that's the big thing; usually you could dart past them and run around them, but here when you catch the ball, you've got to go up the field and you've got to run. Also, the speed of the game, pretty much, and it's good to be around the more experienced guys because usually at home, I was always ‘the guy' - I knew what I was doing. But now, I'm actually on the bottom and working my way up and learning. It's kind of challenging, but I look at it in a positive way. Just try to make the best of it."

The Irish are fortunate to have experienced wide receivers such as Stovall, Jenkins and McKnight to show the way for the younger players. We asked Ambrose about the role of the veterans and he said, "Omar Jenkins has been taking care of me. Rhema McKnight. All of the guys. All of the older guys who have been there before and have been through it. They understand what we're going through, and they try to coach us. Even as freshmen, we are beginning to correct each other. If I see something, I tell them. If they see something wrong, they tell me. We're a real tight-knit group. I'm feeling very comfortable so I just go out there every day and work hard."

Shortly after fall camp began, Ambrose was slowed by an injury and Irish Eyes questioned him about this. "I pulled my hamstring and I was hurt. I'm fully recovered. I've got my speed back and just running now - I'm enjoying it."

Ambrose is listed at 6-1, 190lbs, and we asked him how accurate these figures are and he said, "I am 185/190 lbs - I'm in that area. I've got to gain some weight. I'll probably pick up a couple pounds in the off-season, picking up a little bit once I work out because they demand a lot of you, so I want to get stronger and faster."

When he mentioned working out, we asked him to compare his workouts in high school to Notre Dame workouts. "We didn't train in the season. That's one of the big things I'm not used to - working out early in the morning and then going to class. We worked out pretty hard in the summer, but when the season started, we didn't really workout. I thought I worked hard before I came here, but not like this. I tell all the guys at home, you don't have any idea what you're getting into. But it's all positive, once you finish working out, you feel good."

As was mentioned earlier, Ambrose was being courted by all the big-time programs and we were curious why he selected Notre Dame. "It's the place for me. They say Notre Dame is not the place for everybody. I went home a couple of weeks ago and sat down with my Mom and Dad and talked, and we all agreed I made the best decision. And I am glad I made the decision to come here. I love being here and love all the guys and coaches and everybody. I am enjoying my experiences so far and I am just going to keep enjoying it. I think I made a great choice. I get along with everybody and the guys are the type of guys I like to be around."

Ambrose is determined to work hard and improve his skills. We asked him what he needs to work on and he stated, "Personally as a receiver, I need to work on the little things. I am used to running straight up, and now I need to get used to running down like a receiver and catching the ball. I haven't really caught the ball much, and I drop balls all the time, but I look at it this way, if I drop a ball I just have to learn it happens but you can't let it happen too often."

Right along with this we asked about his blocking skills. He chuckled and said, "It's different; especially when you have to block linebackers. It's like growing pains you have to learn to do it sometime. There is a technique to it and it's all about leverage, and I am working on it."

There is little doubt that Ambrose will be hard to keep off the field once he learns his new position and we asked him what the coaches tell him. "They just keep telling me to keep working hard and I am improving and to keep going. Hopefully, next year my time will come."

Almost forgotten in the buildup this week for the Southern Cal (know they don't like being called that) game is the fact that this is mid-term week at Notre Dame. Ambrose talked about mid-terms by saying, "There are some classes you do great in and there are others - well you know. I have two papers this week and three mid-terms. It's the same amount of work I had in high school, but I had more time to do it at home. Like now we have two or three hours to do four or five hours of homework. You have to stay ahead, and that's a big part of it because they expect so much of you and you have to live up to it."

There is every indication that Ambrose is determined to be a big part of the Irish success in the coming years, and we wouldn't bet against him.

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