Videos by OutKick
At just 22 years old, Sauce Gardner already has an impressive resume.
In his rookie season, the New York Jets cornerback was a Pro Bowler, first-team All-Pro and the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
But despite his immediate success in the NFL, Gardner still had some unfinished business. And when he walked across the stage in a cap and gown at the University of Cincinnati Friday, he took care of that, too.
“It’s a box that I feel like was unchecked,” Gardner said. “Now I could say I really made it.”
Gardner spent the offseason completing the six remaining classes required to earn his degree. In addition to writing a ton of papers, he was also able to obtain credits through community events with his foundation, the Sauce Gardner Family Foundation.
The 22-year-old said he considered putting it off. But, ultimately, he had to fulfill a promise he made to his mom.
“My mom always told me to put school first,” Gardner said. “It’s big for me and I know it’s big for her as well.”
Gardner’s mother, Alisa, was originally against him going pro early. She wanted to make sure he got an education first.
“Everybody always hears from the athlete, like ‘Yeah, I’m going to get it, trust me,'” Sauce said. “I told her I was going to get it — I said I was going to do it after my first season, and it all made sense. I achieved what I wanted to achieve my first season. So I feel that all I needed, the signs I needed.”
Discipline has never been a problem for Sauce Gardner.
He’s laser focused on his goals. And it’s clearly working.
“I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do none of that,” he said.
Jets head coach Robert Saleh praised his young CB for his determination in completing his degree.
“I think it’s great because he’s doing it for generations. He’s not just doing it for himself, which is awesome,” Saleh said.
“But there’s so many young kids that look up to him, there’s family that’s going to come after him, his kids, God willing, one day. I think it just signifies so much about what he’s been able to achieve and what he can still achieve as he goes forward in his career.”
By the way, Cincinnati offered Gardner an opportunity to watch commencement from a suite. But he wasn’t having it. He sat with his classmates — for the full experience.
“I wanted to go down there, so it felt even more real,” Gardner said. “My parents, my family, could look down, see me sitting there. I’m not going to lie, it felt like a game day a little bit. I was a little anxious, I didn’t know what to expect. It was a true blessing.”