Sauce Gardner nickname: How Cincinnati corner, likely top-10 pick got 'Sauce' moniker

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The first two defensive players selected in the 2022 NFL Draft are likely going to be pass rushers Aidan Hutchinson and Travon Walker. After that, it's anybody's guess who will come off the board, but it could be Sauce Gardner.

Gardner was one of the best cornerbacks in the country during his three years at Cincinnati. He had three interceptions in each of his three seasons and was a catalyst on the Bearcats' defense during their run to the College Football Playoff last year. Oh yeah, he also never allowed a single receiving touchdown during his three years as a starter.

Indeed, Sauce's tape has certainly gotten him noticed by the NFL and its fans. So, too, has his unique nickname, which well may be the best of the entire 2022 draft class.

Where exactly did Ahmad Gardner's nickname come from? It's something that has followed him since his earliest days on the football field.

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How did Sauce Gardner get his nickname?

Gardner has had his nickname since he was 6 years old, and he claims it was given due to his athletic ability.

"It really came from my athletic ability on the field," Gardner told Cincinnati's student newspaper in October 2020. "That’s how that name came up. My coach gave me the name. 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."

As such, Gardner has created his own meaning for the nickname. He explained to the New York Post that "the sauce" has become synonymous with confidence in every aspect of his day-to-day life.

“My personal meaning is a level of confidence. When I’m on and off the field, I make sure I’ve got the sauce. That just keeps me going,” Gardner said. “When I’m in my little calm mood, it’s just me being Ahmad. The Sauce is within me, so I’m always Sauce. I have to know when to flip the switch up and turn the switch off."

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So, Sauce has stuck. However, it wasn't the first nickname that Gardner was granted on the field.

Curtez Harris — Gardner's coach during his youth, who is known more commonly as Coach Tez — gave most of his East Side Bengals players nicknames. He told Yahoo Sports that he first gave Gardner the nickname of A1. That was lengthened to "A1 Sauce Sweet Feet Gardner" after Coach Tez witnessed Gardner make a beautiful cutback move in a game.

Over time, the nickname morphed from A1 to simply Sauce. Gardner has embraced the "Sauce" moniker, but he has also referenced A1 during his playing days. That moniker was part of what inspired his change from No. 12 to No. 1 ahead of the 2021 season.

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What is Sauce Gardner's real name?

Sauce Gardner's real first name is Ahmad. According to BehindTheName.com, Ahmad means "most commendable" or "most praiseworthy" in Arabic.

Gardner's mother's name is Alisa while his brother's name is Allante. Perhaps the family was trying to keep an "A" theme going with their first name choices.

Author(s)
Jacob Camenker is a digital content producer for Sporting News. He began at Sporting News as a fantasy football intern and previously worked for NBC Sports Boston