Former University of Cincinnati (UC) star defensive back Sauce Gardner has been officially named the NFL’s 2022 Defensive Rookie of the Year (DROY).
Gardner continues to rack up awards this season after being just one of two cornerbacks named to the 2022 All-Pro First Team less than a month ago. He is the first rookie cornerback to be named to the All-Pro First Team since Ronnie Lott received the honors in 1981.
After being selected fourth overall in the 2022 NFL Draft, the highest a Bearcat has ever been selected, Gardner finished his rookie season with an NFL-best 20 pass defenses, 75 tackles and two interceptions. Gardner also collected three Rookie of the Week Awards and was named the Week 7 AFC defensive player of the week.
Gardner collected 46 out of 50 first-place votes for the 2022 DROY, beating out the runner-up, Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. Gardner is just the fifth Jets player to win Defensive Rookie of the Year and the first since Sheldon Richardson in 2013.
Gardner joins Marshon Lattimore (2017) and Marcus Peters (2015) as the only cornerbacks to receive the NFL DROY since 2000. He is also the only former Bearcat to be named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Allowing just 33 catches on 73 targets, Gardner was a lockdown nightmare for the opposition throughout his rookie campaign. He allowed just 54 yards in man coverage across 18 games or 3.17 yards per game; these tallies led all cornerbacks with at least 120 man coverage snaps. Gardner allowed just one touchdown all season in Week 2 against the Browns, his first in his entire college and NFL career.
“I want to thank the Jets organization for taking a chance on me and allowing me to be a part of the defense,” Gardner said during his acceptance speech. “I want to thank all my coaches from little league to Detroit King high school and Cincinnati.”