One of this year's most coveted prospects, regardless of position, University of Cincinnati shutdown cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner has a busy schedule before his name is called in the first round.
Gardner set to visit the exans on Tuesday, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly.
Gardner, 21, met previously with Texans head coach Lovie Smith at the Bearcats' Pro Day workout. The Texans currently hold the third and 13th overall picks of the first round.
Gardner has top-30 visits with the New York Jets, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions, and Seattle Seahawks, according to league sources. At his pro day, Gardner met with the Giants, Jets and New Orleans Saints.
Long and athletic at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, with 4.41 speed in the 40-yard dash, Gardner combines size and traits with instincts and football skills.
The Detroit native plays the game with a ton of confidence and has the kind of competitive demeanor to match up with dangerous wide receivers.
The consensus All-American and conference Defensive Player of the Year only allowed 6.6 yards per reception last season, intercepted three passes, and recorded three sacks. He finished his career with nine interceptions. Additionally, Gardner never allowed a touchdown pass for the Bearcats.
"I'm a leader," Gardner said at the NFL Combine. "I'm very competitive. I love the game of football. I'm very physical. I like to get hands on receivers, you know, just make sure I lead by example with my teammates. I love it, I love being on an island. You know, I ain't got to worry about nobody else but my man, you know.
"It's cool. I can play man, zone, but I love playing press-man for sure. My competitive spirit, my love for the game. You know, I truly believe I'm the best cornerback. I make sure I'm leading by example. I'm not a smoker, not a drinker. I never have, never will. I make sure I do the little things right."
The Martin Luther King high school graduate was an All-State selection who caught four passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns in the state championship game. He got off to a fast start with the Bearcats, intercepting three passes as a true freshman and returning two of them for touchdowns. He was named first-team All-Conference.
Nicknamed "Sauce" by a youth football coach, Gardner gets high marks for talent, character, and upside from NFL scouts.
"Sauce checks a lot of boxes for us," an NFL executive said. "The kid has got every trait you look for in a corner. He'll become a more physical tackler as he gets bigger and stronger. That's not why you draft him, though. You draft him because he can flat-out cover."
As for the catchy nickname, Gardner explained it in Indianapolis.
"I was given a nickname when I was six years old by my little league coach. He said he seen a vision that he don't think I've seen, you know what I'm saying?" Gardner said. "It means a lot to me. You know, it's been sticking with me all the way to now. You know, I'm gonna just make sure I run with it.
"There's not really a meaning, but my personal meaning what I can say it means is, you know, a level of competence. You know, when I'm on and off the field. I make sure I got the sauce."
Aaron Wilson is a reporter and analyst for Pro Football Network and a contributor to Sports Talk 790.