CINCINNATI — New York Jets cornerback and former University of Cincinnati Bearcats standout Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner was named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press at the 2023 NFL Honors awards show Thursday night.
The former Bearcat was the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, started every game for the Jets. He had two interceptions and allowed just 33 catches on 73 targets.
He accepted the award alongside his mother, Alisa, wearing a diamond necklace bearing his nickname, "Sauce."
“First and foremost I (have to) thank God,” he said as part of his acceptance speech. “Without him I wouldn’t be here…I want to thank the Jets for taking a chance on me and allowing me to be a part of their defense. I want to thank all of my coaches from little league to Detroit King High School to Cincinnati. Everywhere. Last by not least, I have to thank Detroit. It was hard growing up … the adversity is what it took to get me here. I appreciate it.”
While Gardner played at UC from 2019 to 2021, he was a two-time First Team All-American. He never conceded a touchdown in over 1,000 as the team took two American Athletic Conference Championships and, in 2021, played in the College Football Playoff semifinals at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.
Gardner is just the second Bearcat to earn a pro-football Rookie of the Year award; In 1969, Greg Cook was AFL's Rookie of the Year.
In January, Gardner was named to the Associated Press' 2022 NFL All-Pro Team, becoming the first Jets rookie to do so.