Ex-NFL Player Rod Gardner Sets His Sights on Winning 'The Amazing Race'

"I was all in from the beginning," Rod said about joining 'The Amazing Race' before admitting uncertainty about how he and his wife would do as a team.

Allison DeGrushe - Author
By

Mar. 14 2024, Published 12:44 p.m. ET

Rod Garner of the Kansas City Chiefs poses for his 2007 NFL headshot.
Source: Getty Images

Season 36 of CBS's hit reality competition series The Amazing Race has kicked off with great anticipation! Hosted by Phil Keoghan, this new installment showcases thirteen teams, each bonded by pre-existing relationships, as they vie for the coveted $1 million grand prize.

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Among the competing duos is the married couple Rod and Leticia Gardner. Now, you might find Rod Gardner's name familiar, and rightly so, as he's a former NFL player! Keep reading to delve deeper into his background, achievements on the football field, and personal life with his family.

Rod Gardner and his wife, Leticia, both wear neon orange shirts and black shorts as they look at a clue in Season 36 of 'The Amazing Race.'
Source: CBS

Rod Gardner and his wife, Leticia, competing in Season 36 of 'The Amazing Race.'

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Former NFL player Rod Gardner is in Season 36 of 'The Amazing Race.'

For those unaware, Rod Gardner boasts an impressive background as both a college and NFL football player. Initially, he graced the gridiron as a wide receiver for Clemson University, where he transitioned from quarterback and safety positions on the practice squad during his sophomore year.

Ascending to the big leagues, Rod showcased his skills as a wide receiver for six NFL seasons, notably drafted by the Washington Commanders (formerly the Redskins) as the 15th overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft.

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Rod Gardner looks for a pass during the Commanders-Cowboys game at FedEx Field, September 27, 2004 in Maryland.
Source: Getty Images

During his rookie season, Rod's standout performance against the Carolina Panthers earned him recognition as NFC Offensive Player of the Week, amassing 208 yards and one touchdown. His versatility from his quarterback days led to strategic utilization in trick plays, culminating in two passing touchdowns during the 2003 NFL season.

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After a four-year stint in Washington, he was traded to the Carolina Panthers during the 2005 offseason. He remained resilient despite challenges, including being fourth on the Panthers' depth chart.

Following a brief season, Rod was waived by the Panthers in December 2005 and swiftly picked up by the Green Bay Packers, where he briefly re-signed before being waived in September 2006.

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Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Rod Gardner runs for additional yards after catching the ball.
Source: Getty Images

In September 2006, Rod signed a three-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. However, his tenure with the Chiefs was limited, with minimal receptions in the 2006 season. Subsequently, the wide receiver was released from the team before the 2007 season, marking the conclusion of Rod's professional football career.

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Rod and Leticia Gardner first crossed paths in September 2009.

First things first, let's delve into Rod and Leticia's love story! The pair met on Sept. 15, 2009, at Onyx Gentlemen's Club in Atlanta. In a heartwarming Instagram video shared on Sept. 15, 2023, the fitness business owner fondly reminisced about her initial encounter with her now-husband.

"This is where it all went down," Leticia revealed as she scanned the club with her phone camera. "Rod was standing against the car 14 years ago today, OK? It was a white car, too, and he said to me, 'Come here, you want to talk to me? I'm a good catch!'"

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Seated just a few feet away, awaiting the valet, Leticia found herself amidst a sudden flurry of excitement as several groups of girls surrounded Rod, cheering him on. So, what did Leticia do, you might ask? Well, she promptly got into her car and left! Yet, not long after, she had a change of heart and called Rod. They ended up at Waffle House, eating and talking all night long. And as they say, the rest is history!

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Rod and Leticia joined 'The Amazing Race' without hesitation.

Ahead of the season premiere, Rod and Leticia sat down with CBS Sports to discuss their experience on The Amazing Race and why they didn't hesitate for a moment when presented with the opportunity to participate in the show.

"I was all in from the beginning, but I didn't know how we were going to do it as a couple," Rod said. "We really had to see and test out our relationship and our marriage, and see where we stand under pressure, how our communication skills are... I didn't know what to expect when we got on the show but we definitely had some eye-opening moments."

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Rod Gardner and his wife, Leticia, show off their muscles in their official portrait for Season 36 of 'The Amazing Race.'
Source: CBS

Reflecting on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the couple shared insights into managing their distinct competitive styles and communication approaches, particularly regarding navigation and bouncing back from setbacks.

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"That definitely made it tough because even behind the scenes when he is cheering me on, he is like, 'You know when your body is saying you just need to stop, that's when you gotta go harder,'" Leticia told the outlet. "I was like, hmm, nah. My body said she was done."

She continued, "I think I had to learn how to really go in under pressure, right then and there, a split-second decision. That's what he is good at doing, he had to do that on the field."

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Rod chimed in, adding, "She wasn't a quitter, and I just had to teach her, you know, in football we are always told 'on to next play.' Whatever happened in the last play doesn't matter. We gotta keep pushing forward, we can't focus on that. That was a big game-changer for our relationship because if we did mess up, I was like, 'Baby, it's over. Let's just keep going, don't worry about it.'"

New episodes of The Amazing Race air Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST on CBS. Stream the next day on Paramount Plus.

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