Dennis Dodd

Ponder represents the past, present and future of Florida State football

by Dennis Dodd October 11, 2010 in Football

Share

Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder has a different definition of a comeback. In 2009’s ninth game, he threw his fourth interception of the game to Clemson’s DeAndre McDaniel. Frustrated, Ponder chased down McDaniel, met him at the sideline, lowered his shoulder and, well, that was the end of his season. Ponder separated said shoulder.

After his own comeback—surgery and months of rehab—Ponder became the 2010 poster boy for Florida State’s comeback.  He’s got his own website (cp7forheisman.com) and a new coach. Jimbo Fisher took over for the legendary Bobby Bowden.

“Coach Bowden was probably the biggest reason I came to Florida State,” Ponder said. “My dad played for him. It’s tough to see him go. It’s times like these when you expect to see him.

But …

“I think we definitely needed some structure.”

As hard as it is missing Bowden, certain things were obvious. The program needed to get back to its place among the nation’s powers.  Fisher is thought to be the man to restore the legacy. Ponder is the senior quarterback having already left a legacy. He graduated with a bachelor’s in finance in two years and is believed to be the only Division I-A player with an MBA. Ponder is currently pursuing a second graduate degree in Sports Management. All that with a 3.7 GPA.

If college football needs Florida State to be good again, college football needs Ponder more. In a world full of off-field shenanigans, Ponder is the straight half of the straight and narrow.
“If you look back in the 90s when FSU was performing at such a high level,” Ponder said, “it brought a lot of attention to college football, it brought a lot of attention to the ACC. We’d love [to be back].”
As a player, Ponder has a rocket arm and strong legs. As a person, you wonder when he has time to play football. The son of that former Seminole (David Ponder), Christian is heavily involved in community activities including Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In September, he was named to the AFCA Good Works Team and he is currently a candidate for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, which recognizes the nation’s most outstanding senior student-athlete in the Football Bowl Subdivision based on criteria such as community service, success in the classroom, high character and excellent competition.

“God’s given me a pretty powerful message,” Ponder said. “Now, I’m closer to Him than ever before.”

His community activities include the American Red Cross, Tobacco Free Florida, the United Way, the Dick Howser Center for Childhood Services. Haiti Earthquake Relief, Children’s Miracle Network and the Tallahassee Mayor’s Reading Initiative. Ponder, as you can see, craves structure. So does Fisher, who has leaned on his senior quarterback to get his message across.

“It’s been kind of the small things,” said Ponder. “Everything academically goes through him. There’s a new strength program. The whole practice tempo has changed. If you miss a class, it’s a point system. He’s kind of taken control of pretty much everything.”

As coach-in-waiting, Fisher was going to be in charge at some point. It took the Seminoles’ decline from powerhouse at the beginning of the decade to ACC also-ran that cost Bowden his job in December. It was as messy and it was public, and it was probably destined. At age 80, Bowden was competing with his own legacy. Now the legacy has been passed on.

Ponder is the antithesis of what has been happening at Tallahassee. The mind is strong, his body is healed. His talent could land him in the NFL as an athlete whose career will have straddled both the past and future of Florida State football.

“Comeback has taken on a different meaning for me,” Ponder said. “Now it’s about coming back and overcoming a lot of adversity.”