By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports
Taj Gooden has enjoyed a successful two seasons with the Wesleyan University football program.
The Brooklyn, New York native has posted 65.0 total tackles in back-to-back seasons while tallying career-highs in solo stops (25), total tackles (35.0) and sacks (nine) last fall.
Gooden was named a D3Football.com Preseason All-American last month – he was also selected to the Second Team Defense, too, after being named to last year’s All-East Region team.
The 2018 All-New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) First Team Defense selection is excited for the season to begin – Gooden and the Cardinals host Colby College tomorrow afternoon with kickoff scheduled for 1 p.m.
Noontime Sports recently spoke with Gooden about his preparation for the upcoming season, as well as what the Cardinals must do to enjoy a successful season in the NESCAC.
Tell me about last season. What worked for you from perspective?
Following the game plan, (every) week played a huge role in my success. My coaches do a good job of putting me in the best situations to be successful.
Also being a student of the game, spending extra hours watching film and workout out, especially over the summer allowed me to excel both on and off the field.
How can you build on last season’s success? Did you do different workouts this offseason to prepare yourself for a successful junior season?
I spent a lot of hours and weeks in the gym this summer training diligently with my father. I also trained with Gary Gooden, a current track and field coach and former professional football player in the National Football League (NFL).
I’m aware that my success last season may garner me more attention from opposing teams but I have to keep playing my game and be relentless (on every play).
Wesleyan finished 5-4 last fall but ended the 2018 season by winning four of its final six contests. How can you translate that success to this season?
Although we graduated a very impactful senior class (last May), we have a lot of experienced guys returning who are hungry and they have a great understanding of what we’re doing. I believe we will be very successful this season, but we must take it week by week and not look past any opponents.
What are some goals you have for both yourself and the team this season?
Winning the defensive player of the year would be great, but my ultimate goal is to help my team get better every day. Whether that’s leading by example on the field or helping a teammate develop their game during practice. As a team, the goal is to go 1-0 every week and win a championship.
Your team opens its season tomorrow against Colby College. What must the team do to secure an opening day win?
We just have to play our game. We need to stay disciplined and play for one another by doing our part during each play.
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