Saturday that dream came true.
While Gooden is a recruit of very few words, he doesn't need many to successfully explain why he committed to Tennessee.
"I believe they're gonna make me the best," Gooden told InsideTennessee.
Tennessee was the first to offer the Haywood (Tenn.) High School standout. Gooden knew once the scholarship arrived it would only be a matter of time before he pulled the trigger.
For Gooden, talking with coaches and players and touring Tennessee's athletic facilities during a junior day event was enough put an end to his still-young recruitment.
"Just being at home in Tennessee. That's what I wanted," Gooden told IT. "…It all went very well. You know, I got to meet coach (Butch Jones) and all the other coaches and players. It all went well. I liked it all."
Gooden said it was the family vides that made him comfortable committing so soon.
"Just the fans, the big fan support," Gooden said. "They make you feel at home. The coaches make you feel at home. The players make you feel at home. It just feels like home. It's a family. And, you know, people on Twitter."
While his recruitment only figures to heat up, he claims to be fully sold on the Vols.
"Playing at home, that's the dream," Gooden said. "This is all I've ever wanted."
Gooden watched the Vols fall to Auburn last season at Neyland Stadium and described the game-day atmosphere as "awesome."
He used the same word Saturday to explain his experience touring the Vols' elaborate athletic facilities for the first time.
"Just seeing everything and getting to know the program up and down in person, it just felt right," Gooden told IT.
The facilities, stadium, coaches and fan support – Gooden lists them all as reasons why he "loves" the Vols. But he says the Vols' biggest "plus" is their future.
Gooden believes Tennessee's newly signed 2014 class and its Scout No. 4 ranking serves as evidence that the Vols are headed in the right direction.
"You best believe they gonna be back," Gooden said. "But, really, it just means a lot to me, you know, to be offered by a school that has one of the top classes, it just is amazing to know they think I'm that type of player and am worthy. I just got to work hard and when my signing day comes, maybe I'll be a Vol. I know I love Tennessee."
Gooden posted more than 100 tackles during his sophomore season.