Quarterback Christian Ponder has been named the inaugural winner of the Vikings Children's Fund Rookie of the Year Award, an honor conceived by head coach Leslie Frazier to recognize a first-year player for the way he carries himself on and off the field.
The new award, with a heavy focus on community involvement, will be given annually going forward. And the announcement that Ponder is being recognized as the 2011 recipient was made this afternoon at the team's golf tournament at Rush Creek Golf Club in Maple Grove. Ponder will receive a trophy and a $5,000 donation will be made in his name to the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital.
"I knew coming into the league, wherever I was going to get drafted, I was going to try to [immerse] myself into the community where I was living," Ponder said. "And Minnesota has been so great to me, I wanted to do as much as possible to give back. And there are so many opportunities to do that. Especially when you're a Minnesota Viking, people want to have you out all the time. It's gun. I really enjoy doing it."
Frazier said he believes Ponder's charisma and extracurricular involvement can be important to setting a tone with the team going forward. The Vikings' coach also felt strongly about creating the VCF Rookie of the Year award.
"I was really surprised when I got here that this wasn't done," he said. "Most places you recognize the top rookie on your team each year, whether you do that internally or externally. And it was something we talked about with the Wilfs and they agreed it was a good idea."