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Continued: Sid Hartman: Johnson says Ponder has the talent

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 9, 2011 - 11:47 PM
Add Brad Johnson, a former outstanding NFL quarterback, to the list of people saying Vikings No. 1 draft pick Christian Ponder of Florida State has a lot of talent. ¶ "I've only met him a couple times; obviously with me going to Florida State, I kept hooked to Florida State all these years," said Johnson, a former Vikings quarterback as well as a Super Bowl winner for Tampa Bay.

And Johnson has known about Ponder from his high school days in Dallas.

"When I played for the Cowboys, I went and saw my kids," Johnson said. "They played football at the same high school that [Ponder] went to in Colleyeville and just everything that you heard about him was good. He's a tremendously hard worker, graduated in 2 1/2 years, playing for Jimbo Fisher, he's tough on quarterbacks."

Johnson said there was a lot more demanded of Ponder than of most college quarterbacks.

"[Fisher's] the head coach now. He was the [offensive] coordinator when Christian got there," Johnson said. "He demands a lot from quarterbacks and makes them learn the game. Obviously, Christian is a quick study and hard worker and led those guys to a lot of wins down there. The program went through a lot of change when he first got there, so he fought through some tough times. Hopefully he has a great career. He did a lot of good things for Florida State, really kind of stabilized the program. The program went through difficult times when he got there, and he kind of led them back to a winning tradition down there."

Johnson mentioned how growing up in the competitive football state of Texas helped Ponder.

"Him growing up in Texas, where he was, there's all kinds of quarterbacks coming out of where he's from," Johnson said. "Obviously Matthew Stafford was 10 miles away in Highland Park, but he possesses those traits. He's got toughness about him, he's got enough arm to complete whatever kind of ball needs to be completed at that level. Obviously it's just being ready. It's going to be tough on him without training camp and minicamp. What happens with this lockout? He's been a quick study coming up, but any rookie is going to have a tough time adjusting. But he picks things up, and he should be ready to go."

Johnson, who played 17 years in the NFL, said Ponder is much more ready to play than he was.

"I didn't play much in college. He obviously started three or four years," Johnson said. "He's much more prepared than I was, but I was, when my time came I was ready. Some guys are ready faster than others, but when my time came I was ready."

Johnson played with the Vikings from 1992-98. He played with the Washington Redskins for two seasons and then with the Tampa Bay Bucs for four seasons, winning a Super Bowl in 2002-03. He returned to the Vikings in '05 and '06 and finished his career with two years in the Dallas Cowboys organization. As a two-time Pro Bowl performer, he surely knows how to judge a good quarterback.

Lehman to play at 3M Championship

Minnesota native Tom Lehman continues to have a dominant season on the Champions Tour, ranking first on the money list with earnings of nearly $1.3 million in 11 events. The former Gopher is one of only two golfers on the Champions Tour with earnings of more than $1 million this year, Nick Price being the other.

A year ago Lehman passed up the Champions Tour's 3M Championship here, but Hollis Cavner told me Saturday that Lehman definitely will take part in the tournament this year in Blaine. The dates of the tournament are Aug. 1-7, and Cavner said that for the second year admission will be free.

Last weekend marked the first time this year that all three Minnesotans on the tour made the cut in the same PGA tournament. Former Winona State standout Troy Merritt finished tied for 30th, former Burnsville high school star Cameron Beckman finished tied for 38th and Minneapolis native Tim Herron finished tied for 64th at the AT&T National. Herron is 87th on the PGA Tour money list with earnings of $675,318; Beckman is 134th with $407,370, and Merritt is 203rd with $107,397.

Valencia hot this month

Twins third baseman Danny Valencia has been picking up a lot of big hits for the Twins this month, hitting .382 in July with two home runs and 10 RBI in nine games. That's a good sign since he was hitting just .218 through the end of June.

Going into the Twin-White Sox series, Joe Mauer had the highest career average (.368) in the American League at Chicago's park.

Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano has posted a 5.06 ERA through 15 starts this year compared to a 3.47 ERA through 15 starts last season.

Look for the Twins to launch their 2012 season ticket campaign in mid-August. ... While there will be no major concert at Target Field this year, team President Dave St. Peter said the team is already in discussions about potential shows for the 2012 season and the Twins have a strong interest in hosting the NHL Winter Classic or a college showcase at Target Field.

The Twins will host R.B.I (Reviving Baseball in the Inner City) World Series Aug. 2-14 at various sites across Minneapolis and St. Paul. The Twins will be home to the Major League Baseball-sponsored international event in 2012.

Jottings

• Now that the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has overruled U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson and allowed the NFL to maintain its lockout of the players, look for the two sides to make peace in time for most clubs to go to their normal training camps. The word is that there has been agreement on many things and lawyers are in the position of putting them in writing.

• Timberwolves No. 1 draft choice Derrick Williams has 9-2 odds to be the 2011-12 NBA Rookie of the Year, according to Online Sports Book Bodog, placing him ahead of Kyrie Irving of Duke, the player picked first overall by the Cavaliers.

• In 2002, when Joel Maturi became the Gophers athletic director, the administration was contributing $8 million to the men's and women's athletic budget. This year it will be $1.7 million. The department did receive $22 million from the Big Ten for television and other national events, but the rest of the $76 million budget has to come from gate receipts, fundraising and other miscellaneous income.

• Minnetonka's Rachel Ramsey, daughter of former Gopher and NHL player and coach Mike Ramsey, will be one of the outstanding freshmen on this year's Gophers women's hockey team.

• Former Gopher and outstanding NBA player Bobby Jackson is now a top scout for the Sacramento Kings.

• Chaska native Brad Hand pitched his best game as a major leaguer Thursday against the Astros, throwing seven innings and giving up no runs on just two hits and three walks while striking out four. Hand has been impressive in his five starts, posting a 2.77 ERA in 26 innings. But he has more walks (15) than strikeouts (14), and six of the 15 hits he has allowed have been home runs

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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