No Escaping Even Mom

In practice on Wednesday, fifth-year senior Ambrose Wooden heard Notre Dame defensive coordinator Corwin Brown remind another defensive back not to swipe at the football coming to the receiver, just leave your hand out there. That's certainly one piece of coaching advice Wooden will never have to hear from Brown.

One of the last times Wooden swiped at the ball, USC receiver Dwayne Jarrett was making an impossible 61-yard catch on 4th-and-9 with time dwindling, keeping the game alive in the Trojan's dramatic 34-31 victory two years ago at Notre Dame Stadium. The coverage couldn't have been better, but as the football was making it's descent from the darkening sky, Wooden missed his swipe at the ball and somehow it got through to Jarrett who went racing down the sideline.

Then came the infamous Bush push and it was all she wrote.

It's a moment that Wooden would like to forget, but that play obviously came up this week as the Irish (1-6) prepare for Saturday's game against the ninth-ranked Trojans (5-1). However, USC game week isn't the only time Wooden hears about that play. He can't even escape his own mother. Every time the 5-foot-11, 196-pound cornerback returns to his Baltimore home, his mother shows him the picture of the play that appeared in Sports Illustrated.

"It's kind of rough," Wooden said with a laugh.

"It's a small world and it's amazing how some guys can fit the ball in small places. They made a great play and I just had to hustle and tackle him. I did my best to give my team a chance.

"You learn from situations like that and I honestly think that play made me better as a person. I didn't take it so well after it happened but it's a part of life. You live and you learn. That's how you handle adversity, it helps you build your character."

Wooden has had to deal with more adversities after that. He has gone from a starter that made 74 tackles (ranked third on the team) with two interceptions that season, to a guy fighting for a starting spot his final two seasons.

Last year, Wooden played in nine games, started three, and finished with 21 tackles. This fall, he quickly found himself behind Terrail Lambert and Darrin Walls on the depth chart, and slipped to No. 4 behind Raeshon McNeil at times.

Like he handled the pass play against Jarrett, Wooden stayed with it. He came to work everyday in practice and tried to get better. The results are starting to show up. He has predominately been the team's nickel back the last few weeks, and has been on the field in two cornerback sets frequently. He made five tackles last Saturday against Boston College, and had a season-high six stops the week before against UCLA.

That's 11 of Wooden's 19 stops on the season, as he is starting to show up in a much more positive light.

"I feel like something struck a flame under me, and I just come out and do my job and play my responsibilities day in and day out," Wooden said. "You just have to be a team player and step in when you're needed.

"The most important thing, you can't give up, you have to have faith and you have to have confidence in your abilities."

Head coach Charlie Weis is becoming more confident in Wooden's abilities. For the depth chart this week, he elevated Wooden to or status with Walls at the cornerback spot opposite Lambert.

"I don't do that by chance," Weis stated. "I feel that he's put himself in a position where either one of those guys could be the starter at the corner opposite of Lambert.

"Ambrose has always been one of our better cover guys in the slot receiver sets, always been one of the better ones. When Mike (Richardson) left, that was really his job last year, Ambrose has stepped into that position right there and really solidified, and as much nickel as we've had to play this year with all the teams using multiple wide receivers, it really gives us multiple corners we can get involved in the game with a lot of confidence."

As far as the Jarrett reception, Wooden knows that play will follow him for eternity, and that his future children will likely pick up where their grandmother left off.

"It probably will come up for the rest of my life," Wooden said. "I'll have kids and it will probably end up being on Wikipedia, and they'll be like what happened. My kids will have something on me."

Wooden will then remind them, don't swipe. Top Stories