One of the more unexpected picks during the NFL Draft last week was the Minnesota Vikings taking oft-injured Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder with the 12th overall selection.
When later asked why the Vikings selected Ponder, Minnesota Head Coach Leslie Frazier said:
“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.”
As we know from past, colossal NFL Draft busts, any choice substantially based on a prospect’s “character” is a risk. Especially in the upper-half of the first round.
So how then did the Vikings come to the conclusion that Ponder’s character made him worthy of a 12th overall draft choice?
“When we went down to visit with him, Mike, and just sit down and talk with him and watch him work out, I was really impressed with his poise and leadership qualities that some of the (Florida State) coaches talked to us about and seeing how he handles himself.
“I think there’s some intangibles at that position that you have to have if you’re going to be a NFL successful quarterback.
“The mental toughness has to be there and I think you need to be a relatively bright guy who can understand concepts and be able to lead and he displayed those qualities.
“I said (at the time) if we get a chance this guy could really be who we’re looking for. Fortunately for us the opportunity came and we jumped on it.”
So with the Vikings subsequently drafting Ponder it should come as no surprise that Fisher, who has the same agent as Ponder in Jimmy Sexton, echoed Frazier’s sentiment when it came to a quarterback evaluation.
“I’ve always believed that you measure a quarterback on his bad days, not his good days. When you’re not having your best day, how do you respond? Can you stay into it and manage the game?
“He’s always in the film room studying. He’s highly intelligent. He checked every protection for us. He had the ability on every pass to check off and throw to all our guys. He’s a lot more athletic than people think.
“He’s extremely tough, competitive and he’ll put the time in. He is about winning. You combine his intangibles with his great ability, and you get a great champion.”
High praise indeed.
If only Fisher, a former quarterbacks coach at LSU, had said that about Ponder and not Fisher ex-pupil Jamarcus Russell before the 2007 NFL Draft.