As the door opened, Gardner began to join his mother with her work with the United Way of Kershaw County.
"My mom actually works with the United Way for the past ten years," said Gardner. "So I've always been able to help out there in my spare time."
Recently, Gardner joined a program called Mentor Tutoring, which has him volunteering at the local elementary school.
"I go to Camden Primary School and I'm assigned to a Kindergarten class," said Gardner. "I'm actually in the class working one-on-one some of the kids.
"I think I have a pretty good influence on them. They look up to me, because it's a really football oriented town and they see that I'm a football player. They kind of idolize me for me."
On Camden (S.C.) High School's football team, Gardner is a tight end used primarily as a blocker. The Bulldogs, who hold a record of 2-2, open up conference play this weekend against Winnsboro (S.C.) Fairfield Central.
Match his success on the football field and contributions to the community with his 3.6 grade point average and you have the perfect nominee for the Carolina Panthers Community Captains program.
"I think it would be a great honor and it would mean a lot to me," said Gardner. "Just all the things I stand for and all the values I've built up, it would mean a lot."
The Carolina Panthers Community Captains program will honor student-athletes that have exhibited outstanding leadership on the football field, in the classroom and in their communities. Kerry Neal of Bunn (N.C.) and Cameron Ford of Anderson (S.C.) Hanna have been named as two of the ten captains, thus far.