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Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner says confidence is the key to his game

Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner is trending exactly how all NFL draft prospects want to at this time of year. Despite not beginning the 2021 college football season as the top cornerback prospect in the nation, he’s now passed LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. on most 2022 NFL Draft boards as we sprint toward the NFL Scouting Combine.

Gardner, who should check-in around 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, will offer NFL teams the kind of size and length that’s hard to find at cornerback. But what makes him a truly unique prospect is his ability to move and change directions like a player much smaller than him.

“I just work on my mobility, flexibility. Usually, somebody that’s about 6-2, 6-3, like you said, it might be a stiff, but I try to do things two times the amount that somebody half my size does, and I feel like it’s very beneficial to me and the way I play,” Ahmad Gardner told The Draft Wire’s Jacob Infante.

His hard work has paid off. Gardner is the first cornerback off the board in Todd McShay’s latest mock draft at No. 6 overall to the Carolina Panthers. McShay described Gardner as a true shutdown corner, which is something that requires a certain mentality to become.

“Confidence, man. You just got to have a lot of confidence, you know what I’m saying?” Gardner said. “Confidence will get you very far. Having a mentality that no one can stop you, so that way I’ll just be locked in and focused on what I got to do, regardless of who’s in front of me. I feel like that’s why I excel as a [defensive back].”

It’s true that confidence is a critical factor that separates average cornerbacks from great ones. But it isn’t the only psychological trait that’s required to excel at a position that takes a lot of mental toughness. Focus matters just as much, and Gardner has that, too.

“I don’t pay too much attention to it,” Gardner told Infante about the ongoing CB1 debate.  “I focus on myself. I’m not competing with nobody else. I focus on what I have to do for my family, and that’s all it’s about. Everything else on the outside, I don’t let it get to me.”

Gardner is currently our No. 1 cornerback and the No. 8 player overall on our 2022 NFL Draft rankings. A strong showing at the 2022 NFL Combine will cement his stock as a top-10 pick and, presumably, the first cornerback to hear his name called in April.

Bryan Perez

Bryan is the founder of Pro Football Draft. His work has been featured on The Draft Network, NBC Sports and USA Today. Former CFL scout.

Follow him on Twitter: @BryanPerezNFL