Their college scouts had seen him throw during the season, but it wasn't until the Senior Bowl, the college all-star game which is going on this week in Mobile, Ala., that Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, head coach Leslie Frazier and other really started to know Ponder the person instead of just Ponder the player.
"This was the first time we ever talked with him was here," Spielman said Tuesday night in midst of organizing 45 fresh interview with this year's prospects. "We spent an hour with him, but not because of character issues. We did it with all the quarterbacks here because Andy Dalton was here, (Jake) Locker was here. Our quarterback process actually started here last year."
Other quarterbacks had stronger arms and the eventual No. 1 overall pick, Cam Newton, possessed rare athletic ability for the position. But Ponder excelled with his intellect and personality, which are especially valued commodities for quarterbacks.
Spielman called the interview process a "very important" part in the Vikings being able to learn more about him.
"That decision, because you're talking about the quarterback position, is so important," Spielman said. "… We had a lot of very good interviews. But then we continued the process at the combine, we continued through to March and some of them we brought back for our Top 30 (event)."
Ponder's initial interview at the Senior Bowl started it all.
Since teams aren't limited with the amount of time they can spend interviewing a player at the Senior Bowl, Ponder's interview ran longer than what the Vikings spent with many of the other prospects. They talked to him again at the NFL Scouting Combine in February and continued to show an interest in him throughout the months-long scouting process leading up to last April's draft.
"The intelligence, the personality (stuck out)," Spielman said. "Just getting to know the kid. You knew his dad played for Florida State. You have it on the paper."
The Vikings found a lot to like about many of the top quarterbacks at last year's Senior Bowl. They spent extensive time with them in interviews, had them diagnose defensives on the white board and evaluated their play during practices.
"All the quarterbacks last year were excellent. They were great teachers to us about what they were explaining," Spielman said. "This part, we listened to what they had to say about their offense. As we continued down, we got into our offense."
Eventually, they settled on Ponder after Newton was taken first overall, and Locker and Blaine Gabbert were selected before the Vikings' 12th overall pick. How it all pans out a year or two from now remains to be seen, but their vetting process on Ponder started in earnest at the Senior Bowl.
"We'll get all the background information and then we'll integrate them into our board," he said. "We had a December meeting. Now that we have the juniors in, we'll start kind of shaping the board with the juniors coming in for the first time in February before we go to the combine.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.