'I was saucy with the juke moves:' UC's Ahmad Gardner said he got Sauce nickname at age 6

Chris Pugh
Cincinnati Enquirer

The stories behind standout University of Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner are nearly reaching mythical proportions. 

Did you hear that he's never given up a touchdown during his college career?

Or that he's never given up more than 20 receiving yards in a college game to a receiver he guarded?

Gardner's numbers alone are enough to practically guarantee that he will be among the first ten picks in the NFL Draft, which starts tonight. In a recent mock draft, ESPN's Mel Kiper has him going as high as No. 2 to Detroit. 

Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner, center, is congratulated after scoring on an interception return for a touchdown during a college football game, Friday, Oct. 4, at Nippert Stadium. This moment emphasized that this year's Cincinnati defense was for real, and Gardner was a defensive back making his name in college football.

“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 coach Luke Fickell told reporters. “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."

But Gardiner's numbers aren't the only thing that has NFL fans talking.

Gardiner's nickname, Sauce, is one of the most interesting names in the draft.

Here's how he got the name and other interesting facts about Gardiner. 

How 'Sauce' Gardner got his nickname

"Little league football," Gardner said during a NFL Network interview during the draft combine, giving credit to his youth sports coach Curtez Harris. "I had the moves. I was playing running back. I was saucy with the juke moves."

Harris reportedly told Harris as a child, “To be the man, you have to inherit this sauce.”

He was first given the name when Harris complimented Gardner's cutback moves during a youth sports game and called him  “A1 Sauce Sweet Feet Gardner.”

Gardner reportedly loved the name and shortened it to Sauce.

“That kid’s name rung bells,” Harris told a reporter. “He brought excitement and fire to the game.”

How 'Sauce' Gardner earned the nickname with UC

In his freshman year against the University of Central Florida, Gardner made a gamble and baited UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel into a quick release on a pass and broke on the ball, which led to a 16-yard interception return for a touchdown which helped propel UC to an upset win.

“I think he earned (his nickname) tonight,” senior Josiah Deguara said after the game.

Nov 2, 2019; Greenville, NC, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (12) scores on his interception return during the second half against the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

'Sauce' Gardner had many honors this season

Gardner collected first-team All-America honors from the Associated Press, Sporting News, AFCA, FWAA, ESPN, CBS Sports and The Athletic this season, becoming the first Cincinnati player to earn first-team accolades from the FWAA twice.

The Detroit native is the third Bearcats player to be named a consensus All-American, joining former UC kicker Jonathan Ruffin (2000) and current Cincinnati Bengals punter Kevin Huber, who earned the honor for the Bearcats twice (2007-08).

'Sauce' Gardner's expected first-round pick will be UC's first since 1971

UC has not had a player selected in the first round of the NFL draft since defensive lineman Bob Bell in 1971 (21st overall pick to the Detroit Lions). The record for the most UC players selected in a single draft is six in 2009.

The Bearcats could have a second first-round pick this year as quarterback Desmond Ridder has been rising up NFL mock draft charts.

Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Keith Jenkins contributed to this article.