New York Jets first round pick Ahmad Gardner has the nickname "Sauce," but it's something his teammates have said he has to earn. The corner says this season he will show that he has the sauce and is worthy of such a name.
Having to earn the "Sauce" title is not new to Gardner, who also had to prove himself to his teammates in Cincinnati before they would use the name.
Gardner spoke about earning the name on the AP Pro Football Podcast.
"I don't mind. It happened in college. It's something that comes naturally. A playmaker is a playmaker. It's not something I go into practice or games thinking I gotta do this so they can call me 'Sauce.' It's just going to come naturally like it did in college," the 22-year-old said.
Gardner more than earned the nickname in college, not allowing a touchdown in three seasons as a Bearcat. Being an excellent college football player does not guarantee someone will succeed in the NFL, but his training camp and preseason performances, where he was not targeted once, make it seem like Sauce is ready to thrive in the big leagues.
The No. 4 overall pick has already exceeded some expectations and earned the starting job over veteran cornerback Bryce Hall.
Jets head coach Robert Saleh commented on what he's seen out of Gardner, saying, "He's been fantastic. Bryce Hall has had a very good training camp as well, but at the same time, with the overall body of work since OTAs, it's clear that the kid is going to be pretty good."
Gardner's teammates joked last month that they would call him Sauce if he got two pick-sixes in the preseason, but really say they want to see what he can do in the regular season against starters before they change what they call him.
Off the field, Sauce is committed to the nickname, wearing chains reading the name and getting a deal with Buffalo Wild Wings for his own type of sauce.
The Jets need a player like Gardner to step up and make plays if they are going to start being a team that is above the bottom of the pack. Last season, the Jets went 4-13 and were last in the AFC East.