Sauce Gardner Aug 12, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner (1) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, New York Jets No. 4 overall pick Sauce Gardner took the league by storm, emerging as one of the top cornerbacks in the league as just a rookie, securing the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award in the process. As Gardner heads into his second season, Sports Illustrated is giving him some love by making him their cover athlete for their June 2023 edition, and the cover art is certainly interesting.

The cover, released on Friday morning, includes a close-up photograph of Gardner holding up his right hand, which is covered in barbeque sauce that is dripping from his fingers – obviously relating to his nickname, which he goes by instead of his birth name, Ahmad.

The cover quickly went viral on social media for all the wrong reasons with several people pointing out the substance dripping from Gardner’s fingers did not necessarily look like barbeque sauce.

But rest assured, it is indeed barbeque sauce. In fact, it’s a barbeque sauce from 74 BBQ Sauce, a company owned by former New York Jets all-pro center Nick Mangold. However, it’s safe to say a simple photoshoot with the bottle would have been just fine – and far less offputting.

This isn’t the first time Gardner has leaned into his nickname in a very literal way. Ahead of his rookie season, Garder also partnered with Buffalo Wild Wings to create a special wing sauce, aptly named “Sauce sauce.”

[Sports Illustrated]