Missouri sophomore CB Randy Ponder 5'10" 188 4.49 forty, 38" vertical, has been moved into the starting line-up in the Tigers' dime package. He replaced Robert Steeples in this role against Iowa State, and he played well, with 2 tackles and a pass break-up against the Cyclones. Earlier this week, Ponder took a few minutes to speak with ShowMeMizzou.com, and he talked about his ascent from walk-on to scholarship player, to part-time starter.
Ponder was awarded a scholarship following his impressive showing during the spring.
"(I went on scholarship) after spring ball," said Ponder, who played high school football at Edmond (OK) Santa Fe. "It was a big relief.
After all of that hard work, it finally paid off, to earn that scholarship."
Ponder explained that a change in his approach last winter was the key factor that allowed him to rise up the depth chart, and begin to achieve success.
"Basically, I changed my whole mentality," explained Ponder. "It was basically my relationship with God (that made the difference). After last season, I spent some long nights in prayer. He finally blessed me to be able to put the team first, me later. My attitude changed from what can my team do for me, to what can I do for my team."
"I put hard work in," continued Ponder. "I study film. I want to be the best, and play each and every day. I started to work harder, and showed more enthusiasm, and began to show the characteristics of a player who could be on the field at Mizzou."
I asked Ponder what is it about putting the team first that makes for a better player?
"Instead of worrying about your individual stats, your statistics, you're worrying about the team," explained Ponder. "Basically, it takes the pressure off of you, so that you can just go out there and just play."
Ponder said that he "did okay" against Iowa State, but that "there's room for improvement". He was able to run stride for stride in coverage, and got his head turned around at the crucial moment. He explained that your natural tendency is to want to keep your eyes on the receiver that you're trying to cover, but that through Coach Ford's coaching, and through the discipline he's achieved through repetitions in practice, he's learned to turn his head and make a play on the ball.
"As soon as you turn your head, you lose sight of the receiver," admitted Ponder, who explained that you have to overcome that fear, by repeatedly looking back for the ball in practice. "You don't want to lose sight of your man."
Against Oklahoma State, Ponder will often be matched up against Josh Cooper, whom he played against in high school. Ponder said that he is familiar with several of the Oklahoma State players.
"I'll be practicing my technique (this week)," said Ponder. "I'll be looking for the ball, when it comes deep."