Face of the future, Christian Ponder meets Minnesota

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 30, 2011 - 1:28 AM

Christian Ponder met Minnesota, and the Vikings' first-round draft pick promised that he will rely on hard work to win over his skeptics.

hide

Christian Ponder, the Vikings’ first-round draft pick, got a kick out of coach Leslie Frazier saying that he talked with a former teammate of Ponder’s while researching the quarterback’s character.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Christian Ponder grew up in the football-crazed area deep in the heart of Texas, but his soul belonged to Florida State from a young age.

His father played for legendary Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden, and his mother also went to school there. Christian felt destined to follow in their footsteps when, as an eighth-grader, he met Bowden during a reunion for one of his father's former Seminoles teams.

"Coach Bowden actually grabbed my right arm and told me they could use this one day," Ponder said. "Ever since then I was dead-set on getting there."

Ponder ultimately fulfilled that dream, which he jokingly noted began with him being labeled a "three-star legacy recruit" from Dallas. Ponder now finds himself at the start of another journey, one that promises more pressure and heightened expectations.

Ponder made his first visit to Minnesota on Friday, touching down roughly 14 hours after the Vikings selected the quarterback with the 12th overall pick the NFL draft.

The selection was greeted with some skepticism and anger -- locally and nationally -- by fans and some media members who thought the Vikings reached by taking Ponder that high. Ponder's response?

"No. 1, I have to earn my respect, from the fans and from my teammates," he said. "There is a lot of uncertainty with any pick in the draft. I know that on my personal level, I'm going to put in my time to earn that respect and do what I have to do. I know what comes with this role."

The Vikings did extensive research on Ponder, and officials expressed confidence that he has the right mental makeup and physical skill to succeed at a position that offers few guarantees. The Vikings have placed their faith in Ponder to become the long-term solution to a critical question that has hovered over the organization for years.

"Beyond the fact that he has the physical ability that you look for in a quarterback, it is his character," coach Leslie Frazier said. "It's a big deal at the quarterback position, especially when you have the talent that we have on our football team, particularly on the offensive side. You need a guy with strong character, because if he doesn't have a lot of confidence in his ability, if he does not have the wherewithal to man up to a degree, he'll get swallowed up because we have some tremendous talent on that side of the ball.

"I just felt like his character is going to get him through some of the tough days that you go through as a young quarterback in the NFL or even a veteran quarterback. That was probably the determining factor. Not just his physical talent but he is a very high-character individual."

High school star

In some ways, Ponder seems groomed for this opportunity. His father, Dave, played defensive tackle for Florida State in the early 1980s, and the family later settled in a Dallas suburb where high school football is king.

Ponder earned around 25 Division I scholarship offers after starring at Colleyville Heritage High School. He chose Florida State after giving Georgia Tech strong consideration.

"I really liked Georgia Tech, especially the academic background, but it was hard to turn down Florida State," Ponder said.

An honors student in high school, Ponder essentially entered Florida State as a sophomore thanks to his advanced placement classes. That enabled him to graduate in 2 1/2 years with a degree in finance. He earned his MBA last May and is working toward his second graduate degree in sports management.

"My priorities were football and academics throughout college," he said. "I set those as No. 1 and No. 2 and took care of those."

Ponder made his mark on the field by relying on his brains, leadership qualities and accuracy as a passer. In 37 career games at Florida State, he completed 62 percent of his passes for 6,872 yards and 49 touchdowns with 30 interceptions.

"Everyone's aware of how smart he is because he has the multiple degrees, but I think people aren't aware of just how athletic Christian is," Dave Ponder said. "He's always been really, really athletic."

Playing hurt

Florida State coaches single out Ponder's toughness first when describing him. He played most of his senior season despite having a forearm injury that required fluid to be drained regularly. He missed the final four games in 2009 after suffering a shoulder injury while making a tackle following an interception.

"An extremely competitive guy and an extremely tough guy," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "He proved all year he can play hurt and beat up, which I think is a great thing because in that league you're going to have to do that. He can stay in there, and he's going to battle."

Ponder's arm strength and ability to throw the deep ball drew scrutiny, but Vikings coaches said they found no liabilities in those areas.

"We put each quarterback that we worked out through the same paces, through the same routine so we could compare and contrast," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "He was right up there with the top guys in terms of arm strength and accuracy."

The Vikings say Ponder is ahead of the curve in terms of his intangibles. Ponder impressed the coaching staff by his retention of their plays when they sent him to the whiteboard during their private visit in Tallahassee in March.

"Seeing him process the information in comparison to the other quarterbacks, then going back to the board and regurgitate it back to the coaches, I'm looking and going, 'I don't know if I could have done that,'" Frazier said.

Ready to lead?

Frazier also liked Ponder's answer when asked about his friends.

"My two best friends aren't on the football team," Ponder said. "One works for the attorney general of the state of Florida. Another is an aide to a senator."

Said Frazier: "It's not just the football players that Christian hangs with. He is a friend to others on campus as well, and I think that's a good thing because in the locker room, as a quarterback, you can't just hang out with the offensive line or the running backs or just go stand in the corner and say, 'I'm the quarterback of this team.' You have to mingle and get along with teammates. Just knowing how he is able to deal with people, I thought was a great thing if you're going to be in that position."

The Vikings say they believe Ponder has the maturity and personality to assume a leadership role even as a rookie surrounded by strong personalities in the locker room. Ponder described his leadership style as positive and upbeat.

"Jimbo was a pretty negative guy back at Florida State and was intense and did all the yelling," Ponder said, smiling. "It was hard to have a voice over him. My role was kind of the positive reinforcement. Giving them the butt tap and saying, 'You're all right, man.' Different guys react to different types of leadership. That's going to be my role as soon as I get to know these guys is to see how different guys respond."

His actions will speak louder than words, of course. The spotlight was brighter and more intense when he awoke early Friday morning after only one hour of sleep following the draft. His arrival was met with questions, the one-time "three-star legacy recruit" now forced to prove himself again.

"Minnesota is getting a guy that can be the face of the program," Dave Ponder said. "He'll be dedicated to the craft. Football is his life."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets 8 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
NY Yankees 1
Detroit 5 FINAL
Baltimore 4
Toronto 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Cincinnati 2 FINAL
Cleveland 4
San Diego 3 FINAL
Seattle 4
Chicago WSox 6 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Kansas City 13 FINAL
Texas 2
Oakland 9 FINAL
San Francisco 2
Wisc-Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Milwaukee 8
Arizona 6 FINAL
Colorado 3
Univ of Minnesota 1 FINAL
Minnesota 3
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 105
Phoenix 105 FINAL
Orlando 100
Cleveland 120 FINAL
Toronto 112
Utah 84 FINAL
Boston 85
Charlotte 115 FINAL
Brooklyn 91
Denver 100 FINAL
Minnesota 85
Detroit 85 FINAL
New Orleans 88
LA Lakers 94 FINAL
Miami 100
Philadelphia 118 FINAL
Oklahoma City 123
Memphis 102 FINAL
Houston 100
Sacramento 85 FINAL
San Antonio 112
Milwaukee 93 FINAL
Golden State 102
Portland 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 93
Ottawa 3 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
NY Rangers 1 FINAL(OT)
Detroit 2
Pittsburgh 1 FINAL
Colorado 3
Montreal 1 FINAL
Anaheim 3
Longwood 65 FINAL
Presbyterian 61
Campbell 64 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 72
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 80
Ohio State 77 FINAL
Penn State 67
Maine 66 FINAL
Albany 83
Duquesne 81 FINAL
Fordham 66
George Washington 67 FINAL
George Mason 51
Tennessee 78 FINAL
LSU 63
Notre Dame 71 FINAL
Louisville 59
SE Missouri St 74 FINAL
Morehead State 79
St Francis-PA 73 FINAL
Mount St Marys 58
Hartford 63 FINAL
New Hampshire 67
Wagner 68 FINAL
Robert Morris 91
Long Island 70 FINAL
St Francis-NY 79
La Salle 50 FINAL
Saint Josephs 55
Providence 79 FINAL
Seton Hall 66
UCF 45 FINAL
South Florida 74
Binghamton 57 FINAL
Stony Brook 62
UMBC 39 FINAL
Vermont 66
Sacred Heart 85 FINAL
Bryant 91
Richmond 56 FINAL
Massachusetts 53
Wake Forest 51 FINAL
Duke 94
Purdue 66 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Miami-Florida 67 FINAL
Pittsburgh 63
St Bonaventure 64 FINAL
Saint Louis 48
New Mexico St 69 FINAL
TX-Pan American 48
Houston 68 FINAL
Tulane 63
Howard 62 FINAL
NJIT 71
TCU 70 FINAL
Oklahoma State 82
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
Tulsa 47
USC 74 FINAL
UCLA 85
Miss State 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Utah State 53 FINAL
Wyoming 76
St Johns 67 FINAL
Marquette 51
SIU Edwardsville 66 FINAL
Eastern Ill 78
Air Force 66 FINAL
Fresno State 68
Nebraska 57 FINAL
Illinois 69
Colorado State 78 FINAL
Nevada 62
Boise State 68 FINAL
San Jose St 51
San Diego St 60 FINAL
UNLV 58
Oregon 65 FINAL
Oregon State 62
UC Santa Barbara 80 2nd Half 4:25
Hawaii 68
Toledo 64 FINAL
Northern Ill 68
Wake Forest 69 FINAL
Boston College 53
Eastern Illinois 35 FINAL
UT Martin 68
Austin Peay 69 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 72
Virginia Tech 57 FINAL
NC State 56
Massachusetts 55 FINAL
St Bonaventure 49
Auburn 71 FINAL
Florida 49
Penn State 63 FINAL
Indiana 68
Clemson 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 80
Davidson 63 FINAL
La Salle 74
Loyola-Maryland 46 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Boston U 48 FINAL
Colgate 58
Coll of Charleston 58 FINAL
James Madison 107
Delaware 76 FINAL
Elon 77
Drexel 58 FINAL
Northeastern 42
Hofstra 75 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 76
Towson 56 FINAL
William & Mary 68
Miami-Ohio 55 FINAL
Akron 67
Ball State 85 FINAL
Central Michigan 69
Buffalo 55 FINAL
Bowling Green 47
Western Mich 65 FINAL
Eastern Michigan 74
Ohio U 69 FINAL
Kent State 56
Youngstown St 62 FINAL
Cleveland State 73
Illinois-Chicago 54 FINAL
Wright State 74
Alabama 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Detroit 60 FINAL
Milwaukee 56
Purdue 58 FINAL
Wisconsin 56
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is doing the best job coaching a Minnesota pro sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close