Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder has already completed his undergraduate degree in finance, earned his MBA and will be halfway through a master’s degree in sports management this fall.
Needless to say, finding a job shouldn’t be a problem for Ponder once his playing days are over.
This season will be his last at Florida State, and Ponder said it’s important for him to leave a winning legacy. We spoke on the phone last week. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
There’s so much hype surrounding Florida State, but that’s not unusual. What’s different, though, that gives you guys the confidence to say, ‘You know what? We can live up to it this year.’
Christian Ponder: All of the hype is based on the talent we’ve always had. We’ve always had this vast amount of talent. We’ve always had guys with so much potential, guys we can win national championships with and we’ve never actually lived up to those expectations. A lot of it is due to not having the discipline, and everything we do goes back to the small details.
Coach Fisher, and all of the new coaches we have, our new strength coach, everything they talk about now is discipline. Everything we’ve done -- running 110s or going to class -- we’re doing everything disciplined. Those things carry over. We’ve always had off-field issues. They directly translate onto the field, and we’ve never been able to accomplish what we want to accomplish. It’s different now. Very few guys miss class, very few guys miss workouts. Everyone is doing what they’re supposed to do.
How much of that trickles down from you, being one of the leaders on the team, saying, ‘Hey guys, we’re not doing that stuff anymore?’
CP: It’s huge. For me, it’s my last go-around. I’m not going to put up with anyone who doesn’t do what they’re supposed to do. I want to win an ACC championship -- at least -- before I leave here. That’s my goal and if I don’t make that, I’m going to be disappointed. I want to make sure everyone else is doing what they’re supposed to do.
Coach Fisher formed a leadership group called the Unity Council, where there’s 11 of us. It’s basically the core group of leaders on the team, and he has kind of given us the power to punish guys if they miss class, or workouts and stuff like that, make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to do.
Have you guys had to lay the smack down on anybody?
CP: We’ve had a couple of guys, but the thing is, the guys who go in front of us, they haven’t been back.
CP: Yeah, it’s effective. We started it this spring, the first part of the spring semester, and our GPA rocketed. Our average team GPA was above a 2.7, which is the highest it’s ever been since I’ve been here.
That’s very good. What about defensively, do you talk to those guys, and it is at all a concern for you? Because from the outside looking in, it seems like you’ve got everything you need offensively. The question is whether or not the defense can hold up its end of the bargain.
CP: Yeah, they definitely can, no doubt. I talked to a bunch of guys, a lot of seniors, and they feel a lot more comfortable in what they’re doing now than they did before. Going through spring ball and seeing the changes they had in 14 or 15 practices, they’ve improved drastically. And in 7-on-7s this summer, they’re starting to really understand what they’re doing in the new defense and they look good.
What are your thoughts overall on the way your name is being thrown around early for a Heisman candidate?
CP: It’s pretty cool. As a kid you always dream about the Heisman, and to have your name mentioned in the same sentence is pretty cool. It would obviously be fun to win it, it would be a great experience, but I’m here to win games as a team. It’s really going to be the team that lets me win the Heisman and carries me towards that goal, but I’d much rather win an ACC championship and a national championship than win the Heisman.
How has your experience at Florida State compared to what you signed up for? Guys in your class signed up with Bobby Bowden, and you expect to do big things at Florida State, and here I am talking to you and you’re still expecting to do those things.
CP: Yeah, when I signed up I thought we’d be competing for national championships and everything, but there’s no regrets at all. I had a great opportunity to play for coach Bowden, one of the greatest coaches in college football history. And now, for me, this gives me an opportunity to have a huge effect on the program and bring it back to where we want to be and where we’ve been before. To be able to leave that kind of legacy is a heck of an opportunity. I’m glad. Obviously I wish we would’ve competed a little more, but it just gives me a bigger opportunity to do things now.