The 5-foot-11, 175-pound redshirt sophomore has played a key role for a defense that finished the regular season ranked fifth in the nation in pass efficiency defense and recorded the highest number of team interceptions (16) since 2005.
"Every game we play we want to dominate," Gaines said. "There is a reason for every play and everything that we do. We work hard as a team to try to create something special and we're doing that."
While his coaches warned during fall camp of a season spent on the sideline if he didn't improve his tackling, Gaines responded by constantly working on his play.
He finished the regular season as the team's leader with 5 interceptions, 6 break ups and 11 passes defended. He's reached the end zone three times this season via an interception, punt and kickoff returns and his 5 picks were the second highest season total in the American Athletic Conference.
In the Cardinals regular season finale, Gaines proved to a difference-maker in the 31-24 overtime win at rival Cincinnati. The confident and talkative corner emerged from the locker room prior to kickoff with a few words for the Bearcats student section.
"I went down to talk to my fans," Gaines explained. "They don't know it, but Cincinnati fans are my fans. I feel like every stadium we go to that the fans are there to support us."
His early first quarter interception set the stage for Louisville's first touchdown of the game.
"It was an amazing win," Gaines said. "We came out together as a team and put in the work that Coach Strong had been preparing us for all week."
Gaines credits the team's work ethic and head coach Charlie Strong for creating a confident and aggressive defense.
"Our head coach is big on making stops, so because of Coach Strong, we feel like you could put the ball on the 1-yard line and give a team four plays back-to-back and we'll stop them," he said. "We come in every day of every week to put in work, so we're a brotherhood on the field."
A childhood friend of Teddy Bridgewater, Gaines wasn't surprised by the fourth quarter heroics by the Cardinals quarterback.
"You all call him Teddy Bridgewater, but growing up we called him the 'doctor' because he's doing surgery," he said. "He's doing his job. He's an outstanding quarterback and it is a pleasure playing with him."
Their combined efforts guaranteed the Cardinals a trip to the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Fla., the team's fourth consecutive bowl.
"It'll be wonderful weather," said Gaines, a native of Miami, Fla. "I've been missing the 70 and 80 degree weather."