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6 DAYS TO 2021 KICKOFF: Justin Gardner

In which BracketCat counts down the sixth day until the 2020 kickoff with a profile of Kansas State defensive back Justin Gardner.

#6 Justin Gardner
KU learned the hard way that JUCO transfer defensive back Justin Gardner (6) has a lot of talent ... so it speaks well of our cornerbacks entering 2021 that he is battling like crazy to retain the starting job he earned mid-season in 2020.
Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

NOTE: Kansas State has elected to advance players’ classification even though the 2020 season did not affect eligibility. Those who wish to take advantage of this extra year will be listed as a (“super”) senior again after their original eligibility would have been exhausted.

Goal No. 6: SELF-DISCIPLINE. Do it right; don’t accept less.

#6 Justin Gardner

Redshirt Senior | 6-2 | 180 lbs. | Charlotte, North Carolina
Justin Gardner
Justin Gardner
Courtesy Kansas State Athletics
  • Position: Defensive Back
  • Previous College: None
  • Projection: Starter
  • Status: On Scholarship

Justin Gardner (b. Oct. 11, 1999) is a fast, experienced, tall cornerback who transferred from Hutchinson Community College in spring 2020. He has two years left to play two seasons.

Last season, Gardner saw action in nine games and earned starts in each of the first five Big 12 contests. He totaled seven passes defended and two interceptions on the year, tying for fifth and seventh in the Big 12 Conference, respectively, and he also recorded 18 tackles.

Gardner returned an interception 24 yards for a touchdown against Kansas, the first interception-return touchdown of his career, and also had a pick in K-State’s win at No. 3 Oklahoma. He carded four passes defended at TCU, the most by a Wildcat since 2018.

Gardner’s four pass breakups against the Horned Frogs tied for the fifth most nationally in a game during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He is majoring in nutrition and health.

Gardner prepped under head coach Ryan Andrews at Shiloh High School in Snellville, Georgia, where he earned honorable mention all-region honors from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution following his senior season, when he registered 29 tackles and three interceptions for the Generals. He also was an honorable mention all-county pick.

Gardner committed to and enrolled at Oregon State, where he redshirted the 2017 season.

He then played in two games during the 2018 season for the Beavers, including the Southern Utah game in which he carded a pair of tackles, but he then elected to transfer.

Gardner enrolled at Hutchinson and played one year for the Blue Dragons under head coach Rion Rhoades. He was viewed as the 18th-best community college cornerback in the Class of 2020 by both ESPN and 247Sports, earning second-team all-conference honors.

Gardner totaled 19 tackles in 2019 to go along with three tackles for loss, one interception, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He had a season-best four tackles against Coffeyville, while he had two tackles for loss against Garden City.

Gardner’s interception was against Dodge City, while he had two of his three forced fumbles on the year at Fort Scott. He played with current KSU teammate Kirmari Gainous.

In his second college recruitment process, Gardner selected K-State over offers from Akron, Arkansas State, Central Michigan, Florida International, Houston, New Mexico, New Mexico State, South Alabama, Southern Miss, Texas State, Utah State and Western Kentucky.

His chief recruiter was K-State assistant head coach, passing game defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Van Malone, his current position coach.