Former Cocoa Tigers Star, Gators Standout Chauncey Gardner-Johnson Declares for NFL Draft
By Alan Zlotorzynski, Senior Editor // November 27, 2018
2015 Brevard Prep Player of The Year will play in Gators Bowl Game
ABOVE VIDEO: Gators defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson switched from safety to nickel CB this season, but that’s not all he changed. This story is about why he changed his name and the man who inspired it. (Video by Patrick Welter)
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Former Cocoa Tiger standout and Florida Gator defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is foregoing his senior season in Gainesville and announced via Twitter on Monday afternoon that he is declaring for the NFL draft in April.
The 6-foot, 208-pound Gardner-Johnson appeared in every game during his three years at Florida and started 25 times in the Gators secondary.
As a freshman, he appeared in all 13 games throughout the 2016 season and started Florida’s final three contests against FSU, Alabama and Iowa.
The 2015 Space Coast Daily – Friday Night Locker Room Prep Football Player of the Year led the Gators with eight special teams tackles and totaled 32 tackles, three pass break-ups, three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and a half tackle-for-loss in his first season in Gainesville.
His three interceptions tied with Quincy Wilson for the second most on the team and he grabbed his first career interception at Florida State while making his first career start in 2016.
Thank You Gator Nation !!!! pic.twitter.com/BnseLUFn08
— Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (@CGJXXIII) November 26, 2018
In the 2016 SEC Championship game against Alabama, Gardner-Johnson tallied a career-high nine tackles but saved his best freshman performance for the Gators in the Outback Bowl in Tampa.
In Florida’s dominating 30-3 win over Big 10 foe Iowa, Gardner-Johnson recorded two tackles and two interceptions, one he returned for a touchdown against the Hawkeyes.
For his efforts, he was named the Outback Bowl MVP, as he joined two-way standout Dave Hudson (1958 Gator Bowl), Tony Lilly (1983 Gator) and Ahmad Black (2011 Outback) as the only UF defensive backs to be named a bowl MVP and became the second true freshman in program history to win a Bowl MVP Award, joining Emmitt Smith in 1987.
He was also named to ESPN’s, Sports Illustrated’s and the AP’s All-Bowl Team.
To start his sophomore season, Gardner-Johnson showed the versatility that will make him an attractive pick in the upcoming NFL Draft as he moved from cornerback / nickelback to safety for the year following an injury to veteran Marcell Harris during the 2017 preseason.
As a sophomore, he started in all 11 games, totaling 58 tackles, two interceptions, seven pass breakups, six tackles-for-loss, and one sack.
ABOVE VIDEO: In Florida’s dominating 30-3 win over Big 10 foe Iowa, Gardner-Johnson recorded two tackles and two interceptions, one he returned for a touchdown. (Florida Gators Video)
As rumors persisted that 2018 would be his last in Gainesville, Gardner-Johnson stayed focused and continued to impress in his junior season for Florida.
In 12 games this past season he had two interceptions, two pass defenses, three sacks, and two quarterback hurries to go along with a career-high 66 tackles, nine of them for a loss.
He also recorded another pick-6 on the first play from scrimmage in the Gators 63-10 romp over Idaho back on Nov. 17
For many in Brevard County, Gardner-Johnson’s decision to enter the NFL Draft isn’t a surprise in both the actual decision itself or his ability to play on Sunday’s.
In his announcement, Gardner -Johnson remembered those here on the Space Coast that helped him get to this point.
Aside from his family and friends, Gardner-Johnson thanked former Tigers head coach John Wilkinson and well as new Cocoa City Councilman and youth football coach Alex Goins.
He also thanked former NFL and Cocoa Tiger great, James Folston, as well as his uncle, former Tiger, and current Viera Hawks receivers Coach, Tyrone Giscombe.
SPACE COAST DAILY, FRIDAY NIGHT LOCKER ROOM PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
ABOVE VIDEO: Highlights of Gardner-Johnson’s Nike workout and senior season on the field for the Cocoa Tigers.
In his senior season at Cocoa Gardner-Johnson helped guide the Tigers to a 10-3 record and a spot in the state semifinal game.
Playing in the Tigers defensive secondary, Gardner-Johnson shut down half the field against opposing high school quarterbacks. He registered 31 solo tackles, 55 total tackles, four sacks and two interceptions in 2015.
Gardner-Johnson also played a little offense for then Tigers head coach John Wilkinson. He “chipped” in with 927 all-purpose yards and 11 touchdowns as a high school senior and was frequently seen returning kickoffs for touchdowns.
He was then listed as the 84th best high school prospect on ESPN’s Top 300 list and was the No. 42 overall player in the country and No.4 ranked player in the state of Florida by the 247 Sports Recruiting Composite, an industry-generated recruiting ranking.
Gardner-Johnson was the last Brevard County player to play in the prestigious Under Armour All-American Game in Orlando in 2016 and was named to USA Today’s All-Florida first team.
He committed to Florida during his junior year at Cocoa and became a mid-year enrollee following the holiday break of his senior season.
In the way too early NFL Draft projections, Gardner-Johnson is projected to be selected anywhere from the bottom of the first round to the end of the second round. He is listed as third best NFL ready safety behind Alabama’s Deointe Thompson and Miami’s Jaquan Johnson.
BREVARD COUNTY NFL DEFENSIVE BACK PEDIGREE:
ABOVE VIDEO: Chauncey Gardner-Smith speaks with Space Coast Daily’s Alan Zlotorzynski following his appearance in the 2016 Under Armour All American Game at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
Brevard County has recently produced two very successful NFL defensive backs who like Gardner-Johnson attended the University of Florida after great high school careers on the Space Coast.
Former Palm Bay standout Reggie Nelson was a First-team All-SEC selection and won a National Championship at UF in 2006 before being selected in the first round (21st overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Nelson, who is an inaugural Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame (2012) inductee, is in his 12th season in the NFL, third with the Oakland Raiders. He has played in two NFL Pro Bowls and currently has 38 career interceptions, recording one this past Sunday in the Raiders loss to Baltimore.
Former Holy Trinity great and 2018 Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame inductee Marcus Maye also attended UF and was drafted by the New York Jets in the second round (39th overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Gardner-Johnson will play in Florida’s bowl game and then depart to prepare for April’s NFL draft.
ABOVE VIDEO: Oakland Raiders star and former Florida Gators great Reggie Nelson is a 2012 inductee into the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame.
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