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Minnesota Vikings: Ponder wins over Fargo Scheels crowd

Viking quarterback Christian Ponder is mobbed by young fans as he gives away a signed jersey Thursday afternoon at Scheels in Fargo. (David Samson/Forum)

FARGO - David Ponder, the father of quarterback Christian Ponder, is pleased the Minnesota Vikings drafted left tackle Matt Kalil to protect his son.

"We're huge fans of Matt," David Ponder said with a smile during a Thursday news conference at Scheels.

"By the way, this is my interview," joked Christian, who was standing at the podium when his dad chimed in during the media session.

Kalil is one of the pieces the Vikings added this offseason to build around Christian Ponder, a second-year quarterback from Florida State. Tight end John Carlson and wide receiver Jerome Simpson were among the free-agent additions to the Minnesota offense.

"They've done a lot," Ponder said. "That gives me so much more confidence that they are building around me."

The Vikings are coming off a 3-13 season, which saw the team lose seven of its last eight games. Veteran Donovan McNabb started the 2011 season as the Vikings No. 1 QB before Ponder took over that role.

Ponder threw 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, playing in 11 games. Ponder had limited time to prepare for his rookie year due to an NFL lockout during that offseason.

"It was a pretty rocky year last year," Ponder said. "It was interesting to say the least."

Ponder said last year's playing experience, coupled with a full offseason of preparation, have him in a better position to succeed in his second season.

"It feels so much better this year than last year," Ponder said. "I have a lot more confidence going into this year."

Ponder feels more comfortable in his leadership role heading into the upcoming season due to having that one year of experience and knowing he is set to be the starting quarterback from the opening game.

"It's hard to lead as a rookie," Ponder said. "You don't know when you should say something or not."

More than 500 fans gathered at Scheels to get an autograph from Ponder, who was also helping promote a state-sponsored college savings account program (College SAVE). Ponder earned his bachelor's degree in finance from Florida State in 2½ years.

"Education was always high on my list," said Ponder, who added this was the first time he's been to North Dakota.

Also from Ponder:

* On the recent arrest of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in Houston: "Adrian's deal was interesting to hear some of the details that happened," Ponder said. "I don't think he was really wrong. Adrian is a great guy. That's something that he doesn't do."

* On Minnesota passing a new Vikings stadium bill: "It's such a relief for us. We're so excited," said Ponder before he joked. "For us it wasn't that bad. We got a brand new field we are playing on thanks to that collapse of the dome."