Gardner is the highest-drafted player in program history and only the third Bearcat to be drafted in the first round.
The last was defensive tackle Bob Bell, who went to the Detroit Lions with the No. 21 pick in 1971. The other was quarterback Greg Cook, who was the No. 5 pick in 1968 and starred for the Bengals briefly before a shoulder injury ruined his promising career.
The previous high draft slot for a Bearcats defensive back was 43, where Artrell Hawkins was picked by the Bengals in 1998.
Gardner was widely projected to be the first cornerback drafted, but the Texans pulled a surprise by selecting Derek Stingley Jr. out of LSU with the third overall pick.
Stingley was thought by some to be the most talented corner in the draft, but he was at his best as a freshman in 2019 while Gardner was one of the best in the nation the past two seasons.
Gardner was just a three-star recruit coming out of Martin Luther King High School in Detroit in the class of 2019, but he had a decorated career at UC, where he was a Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-American his first season and then a two-time consensus All-American in 2020 and ‘21.
He is the eighth player from UC to be drafted since Luke Fickell became the head coach of the Bearcats