The book on: QB Christian Ponder

Christian Ponder (Darron Cummings/Getty)

If the Vikings are looking for a well-rounded person to play quarterback, Christian Ponder fits the bill. He's proven to be extremely bright and active in the community, but he has an extensive injury history. Find out all about the FSU alumnus with a master's degree and a variety of opinions on him as a quarterback.

Christian Ponder
Quarterback
Florida State University Seminoles
#7
6:02.1-227
Colleyville, Texas
Colleyville Heritage High School


OVERVIEW
One of the most highly acclaimed quarterback prospects in the nation entering his final season, Ponder must have felt like "Joe Btfsplk" a character in the satirical comic strip Li'l Abner by cartoonist Al Capp, who had a small, dark rain cloud perpetually hovering over his head to symbolize his bad luck.

The hapless Ponder and his ever-present cloud was the result of a rash of injuries that sidelined him for long stretches during his last two seasons with the Seminoles. The talented passer started the first nine games of the 2009 campaign. He suffered a shoulder injury making a tackle in the Clemson clash, undergoing surgery that forced him to miss the rest of the season. At the time of his injury, the quarterback was ranked in the top of every statistical category.

The team's undisputed leader, whom coach Jimbo Fisher said was the finest quarterback he has ever coached, returned to the gridiron in 2010 with a vengeance. A finalist for the prestigious Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and Wuerffel Trophy, Ponder started 12 games for FSU in his final season, but was bothered by a right elbow injury that required three surgical procedures that year and forced him to miss the Clemson and Virginia Tech clashes.

Ponder was cleared to return to game action just prior to the Chick fil-A Bowl match-up vs. South Carolina. He came into the game with the third-highest completion percentage in FSU history behind Charlie Ward and Danny Kanell, but during the contest's first 20 minutes, he looked very rusty. The results were as ugly as his banged-up and heavily bandaged right elbow.

Even prior to his injury, the senior quarterback struggled to move the Seminoles, despite starting drives at South Carolina's 29, 27 and 37 in the game's first 20 minutes. Ponder was sacked on a blind-side rush, sacked when he missed tailback Chris Thompson on a pitch and took a big hit from two defenders when he made a third-down run in the second quarter down to South Carolina's 2-yard line. One play later, he missed a wide-open Lonnie Pryor in the flat on fourth-and-goal, a play that could have put FSU up 12-0.

Ponder was taken to the locker room for evaluation and replaced by sophomore E.J. Manuel. FSU officials said that Ponder sustained a concussion on the third-down run and would not return. He finished the day having completed just 1 of 5 passes for 6 yards in what was meant to be a showcase game in front of National Football League scouts.

He finished his FSU career with 596 completions (third all-time), 6,872 yards (fourth) and 49 touchdowns (tied for fifth with Ward).

Ponder was an outstanding student who boasted a 3.7 grade point average over the course of his collegiate career. He entered the 2010 season as the lone active Football Bowl Subdivision player to have earned his master's degree before playing his final season. In fact, the quarterback had received his bachelor's degree in finance in two and a half years. The well-rounded student-athlete was heavily active in community service endeavors and was university "legacy," as his father, David, was a standout defensive tackle at Florida State from 1980-83.

Ponder was a three-star quarterback prospect who earned Texas Top 100 honors (rated 50th) by Rivals.com. That recruiting service rated him the 16th-best quarterback prospect in the country. He added All-District honors in one of Texas' toughest districts in suburban Dallas while competing for Heritage High School. Scout.com also accorded him with a three-star ranking and placed him 20th among the nation's prep passers.

As a senior, Ponder threw for 2,214 yards and 20 touchdowns on 190 of 340 passes (62.5%) in nine games during the 2005 campaign. He also rushed for 911 yards and 12 more scores. His highlight performance was a 318-yard, three-touchdown passing game vs. eventual state champion Southlake Carroll. As a junior, he passed for 1,500 yards and seven touchdowns, connecting on 98 of 182 attempts (54.0%).

Heavily recruited by most of the major universities, Ponder narrowed down his selection list to Florida State, Oklahoma State, Arizona, North Carolina State and Georgia Tech. On July 29, 2005, Seminoles assistant coach, Kevin Steele, was present while the quarter-back signed his letter of intent to attend FSU.

Ponder red-shirted in 2006 and was seldom used in 2007 before being forced into action during a road contest vs. Virginia Tech. In his only appearance that year, he completed 8 of 18 throws for 105 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also gained 51 yards on five rushing attempts. That showing was enough for former head coach Bobby Bowden to anoint the youngster as the Seminoles' starter entering the 2008 campaign.

Ponder started all 13 games as a sophomore. He led the team to nine victories, FSU's most since the 2004 season. He connected on 177 of 318 passes (55.66%) for 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns, but was also intercepted 13 times. He rushed 119 times for 423 yards (3.55 ypc) and four scores. His 144 yards on the ground vs. Miami was the most by a FSU quarterback in a game since Ken MacLean set the school game rushing record for quarter-backs with a 146-yard effort vs. Cumberland in 1948.

Despite missing the team's final four games of the 2009 season, Ponder was named the squad's Most Valuable Player. He threw for 2,717 yards with 14 touchdowns and just seven interceptions on 227 of 330 tries (68.79%). He finished fourth on the team with 179 yards and two scores on 72 carries (2.49 ypc), generating 2,896 yards in total offense (321.78 ypg) before suffering his shoulder injury vs. Clemson.

As a senior, Ponder completed 184 of 299 passes (61.54%) for 2,044 yards, 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He picked up 180 yards while finding the end zone four times on 100 rushing attempts (1.8 ypc), collecting 2,224 yards in total offense, an average of 185.33 yards per game. He was the recipient of the James Tatum Award, given to the top football student-athlete in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

CAREER NOTES
Ponder started 24 of 37 games at Florida State, completing 596 of 965 passes (61.76%) for 6,872 yards, 49 touchdowns ands 30 interceptions…Carried 296 times for 833 yards (2.81 ypc) and ten scores…Generated 7,705 yards in total offense on 1,261 plays, an average of 208.24 yards per game…Also recorded a pair of solo tackles…His pass completion percentage of .6176 rank third in school history behind Charlie Ward (62.32%, 473 of 759, 1989-93) and Danny Kanell (62.16%, 529 of 851, 1992-95)…Became just the fourth player in school history to throw for over 6,500 yards in a career, joining Chris Weinke (9,839; 1997-2000), Chris Rix (8,390; 2001-04) and Drew Weatherford (7,567; 2005-08)…Only Chris Weinke (650) and Drew Weatherford (644) completed more passes for the Seminoles than Ponder's 596…His 49 touchdown passes tied Charlie Ward for fifth in FSU annals, topped by Chris Weinke (79), Chris Rix (63), Danny Kanell (57) and Gary Huff (52; 1970-72)…His 227 pass completions in 2009 tied Danny Kanell (1994) for seventh on the school season-record list…Ponder's 20 touchdown passes in 2010 tied Peter Tom Willis (1989) for 13th place on the FSU annual record chart…His career-best 395 yards passing vs. North Carolina in 2009 tied Charlie Ward (vs. Maryland in 1992) for the 15th-best game performance by a Seminole…His 98-yard touchdown pass vs. North Carolina in 2009 tied the school and Atlantic Coast Conference record, first set by Chris Weinke vs. Clemson in 2000…Ran for 144 yards vs. Miami in 2008, the most by a FSU quarterback in a game since Ken MacLean set the school game rushing record for quarterbacks with a 146-yard effort vs. Cumberland in 1948…Gained 7,705 yards in total offense at Florida State, as only Chris Weinke (9,473; 1997-2000) and Chris Rix (9,213; 2001-04) generated more yards for the Seminoles in school annals…His 2,896 yards in total offense for the 2009 campaign ranks 11th on the school season-record list…His 409 yards in total offense vs. North Carolina in 2009 rank 18th on the FSU game-record chart.

2010 SEASON
Named a National Football Foundation NFF Scholar-Athlete…Recipient of the James Tatum Award, given to the Atlantic Coast Conference's top football student-athlete)…
Added Allstate American Football Coaches Association Goodworks Award and first-team CoSIDA Academic All-District honors…Finalist for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and the Wuerffel Trophy…Became the first FSU quarter-back since Chris Weinke in 1999 to defeat both Miami and Florida in the same season, delivering the ‘Noles their unofficial state championship by a combined 52-point margin; the largest ever recorded…Is the first Seminole quarterback since Gary Huff in 1971 and 1972 to score two career wins at Miami…The team captain was the lone active FBS player in the country to have earned an MBA degree (spring 2010) before playing his final season…Started twelve games, missing the Clemson and Virginia Tech (ACC title game) clashes due to a right elbow injury that required three surgical procedures during the course of the year…Despite his season-long injury battle, Ponder completed 184 of 299 passes (61.54%) for 2,044 yards, 20 touchdowns and just eight interceptions…Rushed 100 times for 180 yards (1.8 ypc) and four scores…On 399 plays, he amassed 2,224 yards in total offense, an average of 185.33 yards per game…Threw for at least two touchdowns in six contests, including a season-best four scoring strikes vs. Samford…Was especially effective on third-down plays, converting 41 of 46 chances into first downs or touch-downs…Sixteen of his touchdown passes came inside the red zone.

2009 SEASON
Finalist for the Wuerffel Trophy, which weighs athletic, academic and community service efforts...Semi-finalist for the prestigious Maxwell Award as well as a semifinalist for the Manning Award...The offensive captain earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference honorable mention, starting the team's first nine games before missing the final four contests due to a shoulder injury suffered making a tackle vs. Clemson that would require surgery to repair…Still managed to complete 227 of 330 passes (68.79%) for 2,717 yards, 14 touch-downs and just seven interceptions…His 227 pass completions rank seventh and his 2,717 yards rank 13th on the school season-record list…Finished fourth on the squad with 179 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 72 carries (2.49 ypc)…Participated in 402 offensive plays, generating 2,896 yards in total offense (321.78 ypg)…Also made one solo tackle… Even though he failed to reach the minimum percentage of games played required to appear in NCAA statistics, the ACC still recognized his league-leading 321.78 total yards a game, which was the sixth-best season average for total offense in league history...Was the only ACC quarterback to average more than 300 passing yards a game (301.89 ypg)... Threw for at least 250 yards in eight of the nine games he started and threw a career-best five touchdowns in the Georgia Tech loss…His 98-yard touchdown pass vs. North Carolina tied the school and Atlantic Coast Conference record, as he gained 395 aerial yards vs. the Tar Heels to earn ACC Player of the Week accolades…One of three `Noles named to the ACC All-Academic football team.

2008 SEASON
Ponder started all 13 games as a red-shirt sophomore, leading FSU to its first nine-win season since 2004…Named the team's Offensive MVP and Seminole Warrior...Gained 2,006 yards with 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions on 177 of 318 pass attempts (55.66%), as he became the first FSU quarterback since Charlie Ward in 1993 to rush for more than 400 yards in a season, as Ponder collected 423 yards with four touchdowns on
119 carries (3.55 ypc)…His running prowess was unearthed in a 144-yard performance in a win at Miami, the second-best game performance by a Seminoles quarterback (Ken MacLean holds the QB record with 146 yards vs. Cumberland in 1948).

2007 SEASON
Ponder appeared in just one game, completing 8 of 18 passes (44.44%) for 105 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions vs. Virginia Tech…Also carried five times for 51 yards (10.2 ypc) and recorded a solo tackle vs. the Hokies, as his first career touchdown toss went to De'Cody Fagg for 8 yards.

2006 SEASON
Red-shirted as a freshman.

INJURY REPORT
2009 Season: Missed the final four games vs. Wake Forest (11/14), Maryland (11/21), Florida (11/28) and West Virginia (1/01/10) after Ponder suffered a grade-three separated right shoulder during the Seminoles' 40-24 loss at Clemson (11/07). The quarterback suffered the injury late in the fourth quarter when he attempted to make a tackle after throwing his fourth and final interception. He underwent surgery to repair his shoulder two weeks later. It was not until March 29, 2010, that Ponder would begin throwing again, taking part in spring camp. "His arm is getting stronger," new head coach Jimbo Fisher said at the March 29 practice. "He is starting to get a better feel for the pocket where he is flicking the ball around. He missed a few throws, one in the flats to the fullback. I thought overall he was solid. He didn't do anything bad, but overall he was just okay."

2010 Season: Suffered a right elbow strain vs. Oklahoma (9/11) that forced the quarter-back to wear a protective sleeve over the length of his arm during the Brigham Young (9/18) clash. Ponder's throwing was affected vs. the Cougars, as he was also dealing with a triceps bruise on his throwing arm vs. BYU…The triceps bruise limited his practice time leading up to the Wake Forest (9/25) game. "It's a little tight at some times," said Ponder. "It got a little tight at halftime vs. BYU, but it wasn't too big of a deal."…Even though the team defeated Miami, 45-17 on October 9th, Ponder's downfield passing continued to be suspect. Due to the elbow injury, he had to baffle at times when throwing some vertical throws into double coverage, as he did again vs. Miami into the end zone on one throw. He also misfired on a few short throws…In the October 16th clash vs. Boston College, the issue with Ponder's health, specifically his arm strength, was causing alterations in the playbook. He described the latest ailment as a bursa sac injury to his right elbow. It happened on a scrambling run, the quarterback said. "I hit the ground and I must have just hit it right," Ponder noted. "There's that little sac in your elbow and I came right down on my elbow on the ground and it swelled up."…With a 12-day break after the BC clash, the Seminoles QB found himself again spending more time in the training room than at practice after it was discovered that he suffered a ruptured bursa sack in his elbow early in the 24-19 win over Boston College. The senior quarterback was forced to wear a compression sleeve for the third time this season, once on his leg and now for a second time on his right arm. Ponder was told not to throw until October 23rd, at the earliest to allow the swelling to go down. "He'd probably have a hard time playing because of the injury" if the Seminoles had a game Saturday, said Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. "It (bye week) really came at a perfect time." Ponder was also slowed by injuries ranging from a bruised triceps on his right throwing shoulder to a bad contusion on his right leg. "It gets frustrating sometimes, but it's football," Ponder said. "It comes with the territory from playing a physical game."…Ponder (elbow) wore a protective sleeve during the North Carolina State game (10/26) for his injury and had his elbow in a bag of ice after the game, but said it did not bother him during the contest…On November 6th, Ponder was still troubled with an elbow injury on his throwing arm. He missed his weekly media session leading up to the North Carolina game to visit with doctors about soreness and swelling in the elbow. The ruptured bursa sac created a large amount of swelling and discomfort, and he further the injury in a 37-35 loss to UNC, but still passed for 264 yards and three touch-downs…After the North Carolina clash, Ponder's right elbow was so swollen that doctors removed 500 cc's of built-up fluid. To put that in perspective, that's the equivalent of two cups – or one-fourth of a 2-liter bottle of soda. "It wasn't a bursa sac injury like they thought it was," Ponder said. "I guess what happened was at some point in a game, I think Miami, I slid on my arm, which separated the fascia from the muscle. And it created this pocket. Once I landed on it in the BC game, this fluid just filled up in this pocket." Ponder said doctors cleared him to play vs. Clemson (11/13), but coach Fisher sat down the senior vs. the Tigers. "He didn't want to put me in to risk my career," said Ponder, a senior who is considered one of the top quarterback prospects in the country. "In the long run it probably paid off to rest last week. This isn't a severe injury anyway. If it happens (again), we'll just do the same procedure and let it drain. Figure it out afterwards."…Ponder was again sidelined, sitting out the ACC Championship Game vs. Virginia Tech (12/04) after he underwent a second surgical procedure on his right elbow in the last four weeks. The second surgery was performed in early December to rectify an injury that has bothered him throughout the second half of the season. Doctors removed scar tissue that had built up in his upper right forearm – just below his elbow. He also had surgery before sitting out his team's victory vs. Clemson. Then, doctors operated near his elbow and drained enough fluid to fill a 16-ounce soda bottle. This time, Ponder said, "I had a bunch of scar tissue built up, which was impeding it from healing. So they went in and cut that all out." He would not be cleared to return to practice until December 29th…In the Chick fil-A Bowl on December 31st, Ponder suffered a concussion that forced him from his final game at Florida State vs. South Carolina, but he didn't remember his final throw, his father, David, said. Ponder endured the concussion early in the second quarter, as he ran for an 8-yard gain and dove forward while two defensive players attempted to make a tackle. One of the player's knees hit Ponder in the back of his helmet, leaving him with what David Ponder described as a "mild concussion." Ponder remained in the game on the next play, a 4th-and-1 from the South Carolina 2-yard line. He attempted to throw a pass to Lonnie Pryor but Ponder's throw fell several feet short. Later, David Ponder said, his son didn't remember the play. "Obviously he was dazed," the elder Ponder said. After Christian short-armed the throw to Pryor, David said he was fearful at first that Ponder might have re-injured his right arm. It was a relief, David said, that Christian had only suffered a mild concussion. "Back in my day we probably would have [still] played," said David, who played at Florida State in the early 1980's. Instead, though, the Seminoles' training staff remained cautious. Christian Ponder traveled to Arizona after the bowl game, where he began training for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama in late January, 2011.

CAMPUS AGILITY TESTS
4.72 in the 40-yard dash…1.64 10-yard dash…2.75 20-yard dash…4.06 20-yard shuttle…6.93 three-cone drill…30-inch vertical jump…8'10" broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 15 times…31 5/8-inch arm length…10 1/8-inch hands.

HIGH SCHOOL
Attended Heritage (Colleyville, Tex.) High School, playing football for head coach Chris Cunningham…Was a three-star quarterback prospect who earned Texas Top 100 honors (rated 50th) by Rivals.com…That recruiting service rated him the 16th-best quarterback prospect in the country…Added All-District V and All-Region I Class 5A honors in one of Texas' toughest districts in suburban Dallas …Scout.com also accorded him with a three-star ranking and placed him 20th among the nation's prep passers…As a senior, Ponder threw for 2,214 yards and 20 touchdowns on 190 of 340 passes (62.5%) in nine games during the 2005 campaign…Also rushed for 911 yards and 12 more scores…His highlight performance was a 318-yard, three-touchdown passing game vs. eventual state champion Southlake Carroll…As a junior, he passed for 1,500 yards and seven touchdowns, connecting on 98 of 182 attempts (54.0%).

PERSONAL
Ponder graduated from Florida State after just two and a half years in May of 2008 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance, compiling a 3.73 undergraduate grade point average…He then completed his MBA degree at FSU last May, compiling a cumulative 3.703 graduate GPA…Currently enrolled in Florida State's graduate program in Sports Management…Two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Football (2008-09) team member…Named this year as one of the recipients of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame's Scholar-Athlete Awards…Also been to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team and is a two-time finalist for the Wuerffel Trophy (2009, 2010)…Named to the CoSIDA Football All-Region III Academic team and is a candidate for CoSIDA Academic All-American honors…Recipient of the James Tatum Award, given annually in memory of the late Jim Tatum to the top senior student-athlete (in athletic eligibility) among the league's football players. Tatum, a two-time ACC Coach of the Year, coached in the fifties at both Maryland and North Carolina and believed strongly in the concept of the student-athlete…The well-rounded student-athlete is heavily active in community service endeavors...Son of former Florida State defensive tackle David Ponder (1980-83)…Born 2/25/88)…Resides in Colleyville, Texas.

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