The Jets hit the Sauce with their fourth overall pick of tonight's first round of the NFL Draft, selecting cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner and adding him to their young cornerback room that also acquired the services of unrestricted free agent D.J. Reed.
Here are five things Jets fans will need to know about "Sauce" Gardner before he gets to One Jets Drive:
Where's the Sauce?
The first thing many fans want to know about Ahmad Gardner is where "Sauce" comes from. The story is it was bestowed on him at the age of 6 by his youth football coach. And there were no secrets or hidden meanings to the moniker — Gardner said it was due to his athleticism at that tender age.
"It really came from my athletic ability on the field," Gardner told Cincinnati's student newspaper in October 2020. "There wasn't really no meaning, I was an elusive running back, I could juke. It's stuck with me all the way up to here."
Get ready for more sauce as Gardner introduces himself to Jets fans and media. At his first interview as a member of the Green & White on Thursday night in Las Vegas, he displayed his bling, which included a shiny "SAUCE" on a silver chain and a silvery bottle of something looking cool as ice yet somehow hot as Krakatoa hot sauce.
"New pendant, man. Extra sauce," he said. "Jets fans know about the sauce. You can't have too much sauce."
He's No. 1
But Ahmad had another nickname first bestowed on him by Curtez Harris or "Coach Tez," that youth football coach mentioned above. Harris, the bestower of East Side Bengals nicknames, told Yahoo Sports the first name he gave Gardner was "A1," which then expanded to "A1 Sauce Sweet Feet Gardner" and subsequently contracted back to "A1."
Gardner said that name was part of what inspired his uniform number switch between his sophomore and junior seasons at Cincinnati, going from No. 12 to No. 1. Not surprising, he played like a No. 1 player, receiving first-team AP All-America and American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors at the end of last season. Then he rose to the No. 1 cornerback available on many draft analysts' mock drafts.
Hats Off to Mom
Ahmad is the youngest of three children and was born and raised by his mother, Alisa, in Detroit. He credits his mom with keeping him out of trouble and giving him every opportunity to succeed on the field. As he told the Detroit News early last month:
"Growing up in Detroit, I didn't really have anything, but what I did have was a mother who always made the impossible possible. Things that I wanted, she would give me a hard time when I'm asking for it.
"She's my hero."
See the best images of the No. 4 overall selection by the Jets in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Swift Road from RB to CB
Gardner started playing football as a running back for those aforementioned East Side Bengals, then moved to a little-used WR for Martin Luther King Jr. Senior HS in downtown Detroit. He didn't play corner until midseason of his junior year at MLK. It didn't take him long to make that his position — he earned first-team All-State honors as a senior.
He also lettered in track with such performances as a personal-best 11.50 seconds in the 100 meters. That was a precursor to his 4.41-second 40-yard dash at the February NFL Combine.
Lockin' It Down
NFL Network's Rich Eisen relayed to his national draft audience an interesting short exchange with Sauce on his TV show. "I asked him, When's the last time you gave up a touchdown? He said, I don't remember."
The Cincinnati and FBS stats officially back that up. After starting his Cincy career in 2019 by being ranked by PFF College as one of the most frequently targeted DBs in 2019, ranking 15th in snaps/target, he quickly convinced opposing QBs to go elsewhere to find a potential receiver, as borne out by his seeing only 11.0% of the Bearcats' defensive targets and yielding only 13 receptions for 117 yards in 2021.
And how about those non-touchdowns? He yielded zero TD passes in 1,103 career coverage snaps in his three college seasons.