TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Quarterback Christian Ponder came to Florida State University for the opportunity to play for Bobby Bowden, in large part because of the influence the Hall of Fame coach had on his football playing father – on and off the field - two decades earlier.
Saturday at the J.W. Marriott in Phoenix, before a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Breakfast crowd nearly 2,000, Ponder accepted the Bobby Bowden Award from the man he called coach for four seasons in Tallahassee. Ponder is the ninth recipient of the award, which is presented to one college football player who best combines achievements on the field, in the classroom and conducts himself as a “faith model” in the community.
“It’s definitely an honor,” Ponder said, after accepting the award. “Coach Bowden has changed a lot of peoples’ lives and for what this award stands for and represents it is an honor and a humbling experience.”
Ponder didn’t have far to go to pick up the award. Earlier this week he relocated to the Phoenix area to begin preparing for the NFL Draft, which will include his participation in the Under Armour Senior Bowl later this month in Mobile, Ala.
The FCA breakfast was held in conjunction with the BCS National Championship Game, set for Jan. 10. Players and coaches from Auburn and Oregon were on hand for Saturday morning’s event, which included Bowden as the featured speaker.
In presenting the award, Bowden lauded Ponder for not only the example he has set in the classroom and community, but for the way he has dealt with injuries over the past two seasons.
“You don’t find out what kind of person you are during the good times, you find out through adversity,” Bowden told the audience as he presented the award to Ponder.
Ponder said the Bowden told him the competitiveness and toughness he has shown while overcoming a season-ending injury in 2009 and his season-long bout with a soft-tissue injury to his arm this past season, “will pay off the in long run.”
Over the past year Ponder has emphasized the importance his faith has played in dealing with the injuries.
Ponder, who ranks among the top five Florida State quarterbacks in virtually every career statistical category, became the face of the program over the course of his five seasons with the Seminoles. An outstanding student, he earned his undergraduate degree in Finance in 2 ½ years and was the lone FBS player in the nation to hold an MBA during his final season of eligibility. In December he was the recipient of the National Football Foundation’s Scholar-Athlete Award, which includes an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship. The Colleyville, Texas native was also recognized for his broad range of community service activities by being selected to the Allstate AFCA Good Works team. Additionally, he was a two-time finalist for the Danny Wuerffel Trophy, which recognizes those who serve as exemplary role models for their academics, community service and faith.
TCU quarterback Andy Dalton and Vanderbilt linebacker John Stokes were also finalists for the Bowden Award.
Ponder is the third consecutive quarterback and Texas native to win the award, which went to Texas’ Colt McCoy last season and Texas A&M’s Stephen McGee in 2009. The inaugural Bowden Award winner, running back Jason Wright (Northwestern), was on hand for Saturday’s ceremony. Wright, who was an undrafted rookie, currently plays for the Arizona Cardinals.
Previous winners of the award also include Jacob Tamme (Kentucky), Carl Pendleton (Oklahoma), D.J. Shockley (Georgia) and Billy Bajema (Oklahoma State).