That is, indeed, the same Chauncey Gardner already making a name for himself in a Florida Gators uniform.
The Cocoa Tigers star graduated in December and enrolled at the University of Florida in January, and he’s turned heads for his performance this spring at the SEC school.
Gardner, the only player in the 11-year tenure of Cocoa High coach John Wilkinson to start every game of his four years, was 42-10 at Cocoa, as the program extended its streak of making it to at least the state semifinal round to nine years.
Gardner made big plays all the way, and he is the FLORIDA TODAY Defensive Football Player of the Year.
“He’s done it for four years,” Wilkinson said. “He was always around the ball.”
As a senior, he made 55 tackles and added four sacks and two interceptions. Offensively, he accounted for 927 all-purpose yards, adding yardage for rushing, receiving and returns. Gardner was chosen for the Under Armour All-America game, played in Orlando’s Citrus Bowl on Jan. 2. He was among the top vote-getters in the Florida Dairy Farmers Class 4A Player of the Year voting.
Gators coaches could not miss his speed in their recruiting. Last spring, Gardner was named the Florida Dairy Farmers Class 2A Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year, having won the 100 and 200 meters at the state meet.
What Gardner was proudest of from his career was his personal growth, growth that also improved his place as a team member.
“When I was a freshman, I had a freshman mentality,”Gardner said. “Everything was about me.”
That wasn’t the final story of his Tigers career, as he saw action wherever needed, whether receiver, running back, quarterback, punter, returner or defensive back. And Gardner made big plays in every role, because that’s what he did.
“I’m just proud of him for the man he’s become,” Wilkinson said.
Contact McCallum at 321-242-3698 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Brian_McCallum and at facebook.com/FLtoday.brianmccallum.
All-Space Coast Defensive Football
Darrian Abney, Senior, Defensive lineman, Heritage
Peter DeMorat, Senior, Defensive lineman, Merritt Island
Marco Foreman, Junior, Defensive lineman, Viera
Tanner Rowell, Senior, Defensive lineman, Melbourne
Davonte Bartley, Senior, Linebacker, Heritage
Bobby Bruce, Junior, Linebacker, Titusville
Jekevius Henry, Junior, Linebacker, Cocoa
Brandon Mays, Sophomore, Linebacker, Viera
Jay Boyd, Senior, Defensive back, Viera
Josh Gaines, Senior, Defensive back, Heritage
Chauncey Gardner, Senior, Defensive back, Cocoa
Ozzie Samuel, Senior, Defensive back, Palm Bay
Tristan Schultheis, Senior, Punter, Astronaut
Trevor Merritt, Senior, Returner, Viera
Kevin Mays, Coach, Viera
Steven Barny, Sr., Space Coast; Zach Beagle, Soph., Cocoa; Evan Cruz, Sr., Viera; David Demeter, Jr., Cocoa Beach; Sean Diggs, Soph., Merritt Island; Gage Ferguson, Jr., Space Coast; Malek Folston, Sr., Viera; Connor Kaminski, Jr., Melbourne; Lasedrick King, Jr., Heritage; Rashid Leftridge, Jr., Palm Bay; Mac Massengill, Sr., Astronaut; Joc Perry, Jr., Holy Trinity; Tre Reid, Sr., Heritage; Nate Silvea, Sr., Merritt Island.
Matt Allaire, Jr., Heritage; Matt Beardall, Sr., Merritt Island; Rene Capo, Sr., Merritt Island; Justin Harrison, Jr., Viera; Troy Hilton, Sr., Bayside; Jonathan Kearse, Sr., Space Coast; Matt Martorelli, Sr., Viera; Brandon Montanez, Jr., Merritt Island; Javonn Roberson, Soph., Palm Bay; Miguel Rodriguez, Soph., Viera; Austin Schubert, Sr., Eau Gallie; Jovan Simon, Jr., Melbourne Central Catholic; John Smith, Sophomore, Cocoa; Devell Taylor, Sr., Astronaut; Cooper Wilson, Jr., Merritt Island.