Cotton Bowl final (copy)

Coby Bryant and Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner shake hands during the 2021 Goodyear Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas at AT&T Stadium.

The 2022 NFL regular season has come to an end, and many former Bearcats represented the University of Cincinnati (UC) well throughout. From veterans such as the Kelce brothers – Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce – to newcomers like New York Jets cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder, the NFL’s 2022 regular season has Bearcat fingerprints all over it.

Many former UC players’ seasons are not finished yet, as the Bearcats are well represented in the NFL Playoffs with four players who still have a shot at football’s largest prize – the Super Bowl. And one former Bearcat finds himself at the top of the sport individually, even though his team’s season has already ended.

Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB

Gardner came to UC in 2019 as a three-star recruit from Detroit, Michigan. He quickly established himself as a star on the defensive perimeter and became a top-10 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to the New York Jets.

He finished his historic rookie season with 75 tackles, two interceptions and a league-leading 20 passes defended. Gardner’s stellar season led to a first-team All-Pro distinction, becoming the first rookie cornerback since 1981 to earn that selection.

Travis Kelce, TE

Travis Kelce has been a dominant force at the tight end in the NFL for a decade now, and his 2022 season was a continuation of that. Kelce earned a first-team All-Pro selection, as he totaled 110 receptions, 1,338 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns this season.

The Kansas City Chiefs traded wide receiver Tyreek Hill in the offseason, forcing Kelce into an even larger role as the primary pass catcher in one of the NFL’s most dynamic offenses. The former Bearcat delivered in a big way, coming up just 78 yards short of his own NFL record for most single season receiving yards by a tight end.

Jason Kelce, Center

The elder Kelce brother, Jason Kelce, earned first-team All-Pro honors as well for his 2022 season, giving the Bearcats three first-team players. Kelce has long been considered one of the top centers in the NFL, repeatedly lauded for his quickness and athleticism as a puller in the run game.

Kelce helped lead the Philadelphia Eagles to the NFC’s No. 1 overall seed this season. The Eagles’ offensive line paved the way for quarterback Jalen Hurts and his second-team All-Pro appearance, along with one of the NFL’s most potent rushing attacks.

Desmond Ridder, QB

Ridder, a four-year starter at UC, was drafted in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. Beginning his career on the bench, Ridder did not get his first start until Dec. 18 against the New Orleans Saints.

Ridder finished 2022 with 708 passing yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions, while leading the Falcons to a 2-2 record in his starts. Ridder figures to be in line for the full-time starting quarterback position in the 2023 season.

Coby Bryant, CB

Bryant was drafted in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks after an illustrious career at UC, where he earned the Jim Thorpe Award – given to college football’s best defensive back – in 2021. He finished his rookie season with 70 tackles, two sacks, four passes defended and four tackles for loss.

Bryant and the Seahawks saw their season end in the Wild Card Round of the NFL Playoffs after a 41-23 loss on Jan.14.