The first Florida State football campaign in more than three decades without Bobby Bowden at the helm started last week with another campaign -- promoting quarterback Christian Ponder for the Heisman Trophy.
Ponder, a redshirt senior who already has an undergraduate degree in finance and his MBA, was averaging 301.9 yards per game when his 2009 season ended in Game 9 with a shoulder injury against Clemson. Healthy now, Ponder took a couple minutes to chat with Sporting News' Ryan Fagan about his Heisman website (cp7forheisman.com) and life with new coach Jimbo Fisher.
SN: How's life? Imagine things are pretty crazy right now.
Ponder: It's pretty crazy with the launch of the website and everything. The whole Heisman campaign -- although we don't really like the word 'campaign' -- is crazy stuff. As a kid, you dream about trying to win the Heisman, so this is pretty amazing stuff. It's definitely an exciting time. The season will be here before you know it; the summer's flying by, and for me it's my last go-around, and as a team we have high expectations.
SN: Do you get to help design the website?
Ponder: I never really had any input with the specifics, but they showed me what was going into it as they progressed and they made sure I was comfortable with it as they went on. And another thing they did was they had to go through Coach Fisher and he had to approve it. They did a heck of a job. The site looks great.
SN: Be honest. Having your own Heisman website has to be at least a little surreal.
Ponder: Oh, yeah. If you would have told me a couple years ago that I'd have a website of my own, I wouldn't have believed it. It's pretty crazy.
SN: How do you make sure all this hoopla doesn't get in the way of the bigger picture of what you guys want to accomplish this year?
Ponder: For me, that's how I've grown up and developed. I've always been humble, and I know exactly what's gotten me here. I can't read too much about myself; it's hard work that's gotten me here and I know if I want to keep improving and play as well as I did last year, I have to work harder than I ever have before. And all this preseason stuff doesn't really mean anything; it's all how I perform during the season, and one bad game can ruin it all. I know that's how it goes.
SN: You guy are our pick to win the ACC Atlantic title. That sound about right?
Ponder: Oh, definitely. Our expectations are always high for this team. I feel like if we don't win the ACC we'll be disappointed. And I'm sure that's how everyone else feels in the Atlantic division, too. The ACC's always a close race because there are a lot of good teams out there.
SN: What's been the biggest difference between the way Coach Fisher runs things and the way Coach Bowden ran things?
Ponder: I think the biggest thing is Coach Fisher has a lot of control with what goes on, and Coach Bowden believed that you were only going to be as good as your assistant coaches are, and he gave a lot of control to the assistants. Coach Fisher's kind of the opposite. He's taking the Nick Saban approach, a guy he coached under, where everything has to go through him. And it works for him, it definitely does. He's doing a heck of a job. For us, what he's realized and we've realized is we've always had the talent to win a lot of ballgames, but it's the little things, the discipline and things like that that haven't been there. That's what he's emphasizing right now -- discipline on the field, discipline in the classroom and in the cafeteria, even. It's those small things that are going to win us the extra ballgames we need to win a championship.
Ponder: I think a lot of guys were hurt to see Coach Bowden go, and that's what the players felt who were on the team when it happened. For me, one of the biggest reasons I came to Florida State was Coach Bowden, and to have the opportunity to play for him was unreal, something I've always dreamed of. And I think a lot of people were frustrated with the way it happened and a lot of people didn't want to see Coach Bowden go. I mean, he was here for 34 years and everyone was used to seeing him here. Anytime you have a change like that, it's hard to take. But the way Coach Fisher's handling things and the things that we're doing and he's doing and the things he's implementing, that's allowing us to progress and to keep taking those extra steps we need to take to move forward.
SN: What was the worst part of rehabbing your injury after that Clemson game last year?
Ponder: Rehab's a very, very frustrating process. For four or five weeks after the surgery, I was in there for three or four hours a day, doing easy range-of-motion stuff, and it was frustrating not being able to lift your arm, and frustrating to be out. The Gator Bowl was one of the most frustrating things, to be on the sidelines for Coach Bowden's last game. The things like that were pretty hard. Just the whole process of getting back was a pretty long and grueling process and I'm definitely happy to be done with it. The trainers and doctors did a great job helping me get back. It's a tough process to go through.
Ryan Fagan is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ryan_fagan.
Read more: http://www.sportingnews.com/college-football/article/2010-07-11/florida-state-qb-christian-ponder-one-bad-game-can-ruin-it-all#ixzz0tZOlBhKn