Jets' Ahmad Gooden Uses Rocky-Like Workouts and Perseverance to Survive a Global Pandemic and Racial Unrest

The coronavirus pandemic has taken the world by storm. States are beginning to open after stay-at-home orders and social distancing were in effect. Millions of jobs have been lost and the unemployment rate has skyrocketed at a historic rate. Outside of essential workers, people have been attending school and work virtually in some instances.

For Ahmad Gooden of the New York Jets, it was an inopportune time since OTAs were near. Gooden is currently in his hometown of Talladega, Alabama waiting to get a call to see when he can return to the Jets for offseason work. While waiting, he is also watching with the rest of the world as the United States deals with police-involved murders of unarmed Black people. Amid days of protesting, looting, and buildings being set ablaze, Gooden’s focus has been on a lot of things, understandably. While the world is in an unprecedented position, he says he is managing the best way he can.

“It’s been hard, but I’ve been grinding. I sort of had to create my own OTAs in an old-fashioned way," the former Samford Bulldogs linebacker told TSFJ. "In a sense, I have been doing Rocky-like workouts. A lot of drills I cannot simulate due to my position, but I have been very creative. I do not have access to a gym, but I have high school fields nearby. My trainer and I have used punch dummies on trees and other creative things such as using tractor tires, barrels, and practically anything I can get my hands on. Since I do not play a skill position, I don’t have the luxury to throw and catch, but despite the obstacles, my workouts have been keeping me in shape.”

Although Gooden has not been training to fight Ivan Drago, he is making the best of his unusual situation.

"I'm a guy from the country, so this is just taking me back to the basics. It has been a while since I've had to work out like this, but it will only make me a better player. My teammates and I have been holding each other accountable, knowing we don't have the luxury in working out at a gym or facility."

Despite not being in the New York area with his teammates, they have had interactions via Microsoft Teams.

“We are pretty much going over the same thing we go over in OTAs, so that’s been a smooth adjustment. Many young guys may not think that aspect is important, but mental reps are key. I miss the camaraderie and working out with the guys, but we stay in touch by attending the meetings and by using a group chat. This is a hard time for everyone, so it’s a matter of pushing through it.”

Despite the change of plans, Gooden stated that there have been few adjustments.

“As I stated before, the biggest adjustment is not being around the guys. Being in Talladega, I don’t work out with anyone here other than my trainer. I do have teammates in Atlanta, but with COVID-19, it was another barrier that I had to face. Another thing is diet. Diet is so essential for professional athletes, and we must make sure we have to treat our bodies’ right. Being at [home], the options are slim. I’ve been eating a Paleo diet to stay on track.”

While football is Gooden’s focus, he cannot ignore what is going on in the world, especially since he is a Black male. Being from Alabama, a state that has an extensive history of racism and bigotry, Gooden is impacted by what is evolving.

“We are at a delicate period addressing issues of all kinds at different angles. This is a systematic problem that has been revived since its origin and the tired people have expressed themselves and that is what I like about what is going on. We must stay consistent and we have to use more than just our voices. We can become united, which has not been done. But we have to create change for our children and grandchildren and the generations after."

Gooden is no stranger to adversity, but through it all, he continues to press forward.

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