Cincinnati Bearcats Cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner Enters NFL Draft

Ahmad Gardner intercepts ball (courtesy UC Athletic Communications)

The consensus All-American is projected to be a first round pick

CINCINNATI – Cincinnati junior cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner announced on Tuesday that he will forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the 2022 NFL Draft.

Gardner is projected to be a first round pick after becoming the Bearcats’ first-ever non-kicker/punter consensus All-American and third overall.

The Detroit, Mich., never allowed a touchdown reception over more than 1,000 targets in three seasons. He was a three-time All-American Athletic Conference First Team selection and was the league’s unanimous Defensive Player of the Year in 2021.

“I want to say thank you to Ahmad and his family for everything he has poured into the University of Cincinnati and our football program,” Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell said. “He will go down as one of the greatest Bearcats ever to play here and certainly one of the most talented, accomplished and competitive players I have ever coached. It was fun to watch Ahmad’s growth on and off the field during these last three seasons. His physicality at the cornerback position and ability to shut down his side of the field allowed our defense to do things we’ve never been able to do before and made everybody around him better. Ahmad was an integral part of taking this program to the next level and I look forward to watching him do the same for whatever NFL team selects him this spring. Ahmad will forever be a Bearcat and I’m grateful to be his coach.”

Gardner collected All-America First Team honors from the Associated Press, Sporting News, AFCA, FWAA, ESPN, CBS Sports and The Athletic in 2021, becoming the first Bearcat to earn first team accolades from the FWAA twice.

He was a leader on a Cincinnati team that finished 13-1 and won its second straight AAC Championship in 2021. The Bearcats’ season culminated with an appearance in the College Football Playoff Semifinals at the 86th Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.

Gardner finished with 40 tackles, five TFLs, three sacks, three interceptions, four pass breakups and one forced fumble this fall. He added a 60-yard scoop-and-score touchdown on a field goal block against East Carolina.

Quarterbacks had a passer rating of 26.1 when targeting Gardner in 2021 – the lowest of any player in the nation. The 6-3, 200-pounder led a defense that ranked second in the nation in yards allowed (169.2), second in opponent passer rating (103.37), third in interceptions (19), fourth in completion percentage (54%) and fifth in scoring defense (16.9).

He wraps up his career with 99 tackles and nine interceptions to go along with two conference championships and more than a dozen All-America awards. The Bearcats finished 33-5 during his three seasons.

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