Christian Ponder is taking this leadership thing seriously.
Without the ability to work out at the Vikings' Winter Park practice facility with new teammates, Ponder took to his Twitter page on the day he was drafted and used it in the days afterwards to welcome new rookies to the team.
His first tweet after joining the Vikings on April 28: "It's great to be a Minnesota VIKING!!!!!!!!"
The Vikings brass feels the same way about him. In fact, in their press conference shortly after selecting him 12th overall, it seemed they were as focused on the intangibles he brings to the position – like "leadership" and "character" – as they were on his completion percentages, arm strength and other measurable traits that scouts often look for in their next big thing.
"Beyond the fact that he has the physical ability that you look for in a quarterback, it is his character. 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," head coach Leslie Frazier said. "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."
Not long after his selection and subsequent news conferences and interviews, Ponder went to work to win over the key elements – players, coaches and fans. He talked about meeting up with receiver Percy Harvin and other teammates for workouts in Florida if the lockout continues. And he quickly started praising his future playmakers.
"My job's easy," he said. "I just got to hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson, throw the ball to Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice. I mean, what do I have to do? They got to do all of the dirty work, so it's a great fit for me and it takes a lot of pressure off of me and I'm going to be loving it. I've never been around so much talent and, again, it is such a great organization, a great team right now."
Ponder also went to work on embracing the rookies – even former college rivals – that were becoming teammates.
On his Twitter page, he wrote that he was "excited for" defensive back Mistral Raymond, center Brandon Fusco and defensive tackle Christian Ballard after their selections on the final day of the draft "and happy to reunite with DeMarcus Love. Played with him at the (Senior Bowl)."
The well-wishes were quickly returned by Raymond. "Bro we had a great battle on the field against each other.. now I look forward to some great wins as teammates.. see ya soon!" Raymond wrote on his Twitter page.
Ponder hit up the good feelings from all angles and didn't forget the fans, either.
"Enjoying my time in Minnesota...Skol Vikings!" he wrote on the day he visited Winter Park after being selected. "But question...I leave tomorrow but when I come back to Minnesota what are some things I absolutely have to do to enjoy Minneapolis?"
That won't be hard. He's already a golfer and avid fisherman, two of the state's top outdoor activities. And he is apparently joining the fan base of another recent outdoor activity.
"Just bought my first Twins hat. Went with the fitted ‘M,' they didn't have the classic ‘TC'.not a lot of Minnesota gear in Tallahassee," he wrote.
And then, after Francisco Liriano's big performance: "No hitter baby! #Twins #luckyhat"
Ponder knows the value of winning over the fans at every turn. Those who witnessed the boos for Brad Childress and Tarvaris Jackson in the last few years can see why he's on the no-fan-left-behind campaign.
"Number one, I have to earn my respect, from the fans and from my teammates," Ponder said when asked about analysts who criticized his selection so early in the draft. "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. And I'm going to prepare myself for it and I'll be fine."
While the positive-energy leadership style comes naturally to Ponder after playing good cop to Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher's bad cop routine among other Seminoles players, Frazier also realizes it will take more than words to win over a sometimes skeptical Vikings fan base.
"The most important thing for Christian and our football team is to do the things that we have to do to be successful. And if we do that as a team, and that's the good thing about our game, it's not about one player," Frazier said. "Christian will have great support from our defense, from our special teams, the other players on our offense. If we do what we have to do as a team, those people that are concerned will love what we have accomplished. They will cheer, and that's our goal – to make sure they are cheering."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Ponder working the crowd early
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