Ponder has ‘bragging rights’ dating Steele

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Christian Ponder has the Minnesota Vikings off to one of the more surprising starts in the NFL as the team’s starting quarterback.

Turns out he’s been pretty successful off the field too, confirming Friday he is dating ESPN college football sideline reporter Samantha Steele.

“Obviously, I am a catch,” Ponder joked. “But I outpunted my coverage for sure.”

Ponder, 24, tried to keep his new romance a secret, but once it was out he wasn’t backing away from the rumors, which began after the two were exchanging responses via Twitter and Ponder tweeted that the two were dating before deleting the tweet.

Approached Friday, Ponder, who’s more known for his passing, was proud of his new catch.

“I’m proud of the relationship, I can brag,”Ponder said. “I have bragging rights.”

Ponder said Steele has visited him in Minnesota often since the relationship began a couple of months ago. The two met on the set of “College GameDay” earlier this year, when the ESPN live show was at Florida State, where Ponder was the Seminoles’ starting quarterback before being drafted in the first round by Minnesota last year.

The Twitter exchanges, which also caught the attention of his followers, started the rumors, and Ponder said he’s been surprised by the amount of reaction the news has received.

“Kind of been intentionally trying to keep it private, but we knew it would get out at some point,” Ponder said. “It’s not that really big of a deal. There’s been 1,000 articles today about it. Can’t really worry about; try to keep it private, but that’s part of the industry, part of the job, comes with the territory.”

Steele has quickly become a heartthrob since her quick rise to becoming ESPN’s Thursday night football sideline reporter and host of the first hour of “College GameDay.”

Steele, 26, was one of the first hires at ESPN’s Longhorn Network in 2011. She added the additional college football duties last summer.

Of course, his teammates have been giving Ponder a hard time.

“They call me Mr. Steele,” Ponder said, adding: “Christian Steele is kind of a sweet name.”

Tight end Kyle Rudolph, perhaps Ponder’s closest friend on the team, isn’t above teasing his friend.

“Yeah, she definitely wears the pants,” Rudolph said.

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