“Really they were recruiting me hard from the beginning,” Gooden said. “It’s closer; it’s just in Birmingham, so I took a few more visits than any other school. I kind of fell in love with the campus. The people there are amazing people, very friendly, and it just felt like home. They really had everything in place. They just won their first (Southern Conference) championship. Most of the team is coming back and I just felt like I was going to be a big part of that.”
Talladega boys basketball head coach Chucky Miller has four years of coaching experience with Gooden. Miller believes with Gooden’s athletic ability, he should be able to do perform at a high level for the Bulldogs, much like another Talladega county graduate who once signed with Samford.
“I believe Samford has been recruiting him hard for a long time and they stayed on him,” Miller said. “I know some of the coaches there—coach Sullivan and some of the other ones. We go way back. I believe Samford likes this area. Kelsey Pope from Sylacauga has been a star there and Ahmad is a good athlete like Kelsey was when he was playing at Sylacauga. I believe they’re getting a good player in Ahmad.”
Talladega football head coach Robert Herring said Samford is fortunate to have a person like Gooden with his strengths both on and off the field.
“He’s one of the kids I promise you he’ll have a degree in four years and maybe be working on his Masters before he finishes playing,” Herring said. “He’s a great student in the classroom, he’s a model citizen and he’ll also be a tremendous plus for their football program. They’re getting a great signing.”
Talladega Athletic Director Jannie Keith believes great things lie ahead for Gooden and that he has set a sterling example for the younger athletes at Talladega.
“It’s a great achievement for the school system here in Talladega city,” Keith said. “I think for football this has been our first scholarship I know since I’ve been here. So, it is wonderful. As an AD, I know we are going to have some more things even bigger and better coming in the future. When you can get your foot in the door, it will open up some other things. I know there will be greater things coming along. I think Ahmad is going to do well at Samford as a Bulldog.”
Following his signing, the 6-3, 234 pound pass rush specialist said he felt a sense of relief. He was forthright in admitting that making a decision proved to be difficult.
“My football season didn’t go the way I wanted it,” Gooden said. “I got injured. Since I got injured and wasn’t playing as good, I thought colleges would back off. Some did but all of them didn’t. Toward the end of the season, I kind of picked back up. The last game I might have been close to 100 percent. Samford rode with me the whole way. In the past month, it’s been really hectic. Colleges were calling asking ‘What’s your decision?’ It’s kind of confusing because you don’t know which one to pick. That was a real stressful time.”
Rated a three-star recruit by 24/7 Sports, Gooden was coached during his first three seasons at Talladega by head coach Chris Mahand. Under Mahand’s guidance, Gooden earned an All-State selection in 2012.
Despite the fact that Gooden missed a number of games this season and even when he did play it was with a high ankle sprain, Gooden collected eight sacks and 12 tackles for a loss.
“He had that high ankle sprain in the first game of the year and he really didn’t get healthy until about game seven, but he still had an outstanding year, a lot better than most people would have,” Herring said. “He kept fighting and working his way through it and showed a lot of determination and courage and was relentless. He ended up getting a scholarship to Samford, which is a great university and pretty expensive place to go.”