Detroit King product Sauce Gardner hopes to be part of 'something special' with Jets
Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, a cornerback from Cincinnati who starred at Detroit King, was selected No. 4 overall by the New York Jets on Thursday night in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Gardner had problems finding the stage at the NFL Draft event in Las Vegas, taking a wrong turn, then reversing his field and running to find his way to get introduced to the fans by commissioner Roger Goodell.
Gardner was the second cornerback selected with Derek Stingley Jr. of LSU picked third by the Texans. It was the second time in draft history that the first four picks were defensive players and first time since 1991 with Jacksonville picking Georgia defensive end Travon Walker No. 1, followed by the Lions picking Michigan All-American defensive end Aidan Hutchinson with the second pick.
In three seasons at Cincinnati, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Gardner tallied nine interceptions among 16 pass breakups, returning two for touchdowns, and never allowed a touchdown in coverage.
Opposing quarterbacks had problems going Gardner's side of the field, completing just 8-of-30 passes with the longest reception going for 13 yards this season.
"This was the plan all along," Gardner said in an interview with the NFL Network. "I'm extremely blessed. I'm going to the Jets and make sure I'm the best teammate.
"This is where I want to be, to be a New York Jet is a blessing, to be a part of something special. I visited the facility, meeting the staff. And seeing that the fans love me. Those are the main reasons I'm happy to be here. I had a feeling all along after talking to the coaches."
Jets head coach Robert Saleh, a Dearborn native, was 4-13 in his first year with the Jets, who had just seven interceptions and missed the playoffs for the 11th straight season.
Gardner is looking forward to visiting New York City for the first time and then showing his ability.
"I know I'm going to be a great teammate and I'm going to be a sponge, somebody that's able to take information from everyone, not feeling like I'm too good for anyone and just being a hard worker," he said.
Gardner is familiar with former Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, who was a four-time first-team All-Pro and named to the NFL's 2010s All-Decade Team.
"When I think about the Jets I think about Darrelle Revis," Gardner said. "He used to be one of my favorite cornerbacks in the league. I still watch him till this day. He was a competitor. I was just watching his tape versus (former Lions receiver) Calvin Johnson. He was one of the only guys that was able to shake Calvin Johnson down, so that took a lot."
The last time a player from the PSL was picked in the top 10 of the first round was Detroit Cass Tech defensive end Vernon Gholston, who was taken sixth overall by the New York Jets in 2008.
Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis (Detroit Mackenzie) was picked 10th overall by the Los Angeles Rams in 1993.
Former Michigan All-American receiver Braylon Edwards started his prep career at Detroit King before transferring to Harper Woods Bishop Gallagher. Edwards was picked third overall by the Cleveland Browns in 2005.
King cornerback Ambry Thomas was picked in the third round of last year’s NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers.
Gardner was heartbroken that his former DB coach at King would not get the chance to see him get drafted. Kelvin Shepherd passed away April 4.
Gardner honored Shepherd on his Twitter account.
King coach Tyrone Spencer said Shepherd had been an assistant coach at King for more than 30 years.
“Kelvin coached at King for over 30 years, coached defensive backs, was coaching this past season,” Spencer said. “He was great guy, great coach. He coached a lot of kids and everybody respected him. He coached me, coached all of us.”