EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Christian Ponder’s development as the Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback has been slow. He took significantly less time to finish his courtship of ESPN reporter Samantha Steele.
Just a few months after meeting Steele on the set of ESPN’s “College GameDay” and two weeks after getting engaged, Ponder confirmed the two were married at a Hudson, Wis., courthouse on Monday afternoon. Ponder, 24, has been surprised by the attention the relationship has received and unsuccessfully tried to keep the marriage out of the public eye.
“We tried to keep the attention away from us and just went over to Wisconsin and had it done,” Ponder said Wednesday during his weekly press conference. “So, it was quick, but it was good.”
Ponder is used to having the spotlight as Minnesota’s second-year starting quarterback, and Steele, 27, is certainly no stranger to the attention. But the two believed going to Hudson — about 40 minutes east of the Twin Cities — might have kept the marriage under wraps. Ponder said it was just the two of them on Monday but that they will have a bigger ceremony in the offseason.
“It was important for us to get it done before the holidays and a lot of personal reasons that went into it,” Ponder said.
News broke of the romance in October when Ponder confirmed the two were dating. Ponder said they were hoping to keep the relationship a secret but knew it would eventually get out. He confirmed later they were engaged on Dec. 4 but refused to get into details.
Ponder said the two met when Steele’s live ESPN show was at Florida State, where Ponder was the Seminoles’ starting quarterback before being drafted in the first round by Minnesota last year. Ponder added that Steele has visited him in Minnesota often since the relationship began.
“They call me Mr. Steele,” Ponder said in October, adding: “Christian Steele is kind of a sweet name.”
Steele also confirmed the union via Twitter on Wednesday morning: “Twitter is so tricky. Who knew that ‘she’s pregnant’ & ‘they’ll be divorced soon’ are just the 2012 version of ‘congrats’! Thx guys! :)”
With two games remaining this season, the Vikings are trying to earn a playoff berth with Ponder in his second year as a starter. The timing of the nuptials has brought attention because of Minnesota’s postseason push, but Ponder said it hasn’t been a distraction to him or the team.
“It was a good thing to happen, but it’s not going to be a distraction,” Ponder said. “I’m still putting in the time that I did Monday and Tuesday and for the rest of the week. . . . (I understand) how big of a game this is for myself and this team. It’s important for me.”
The Vikings (8-6) travel to Houston Sunday to take on the Texans (12-2).
Ponder has completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 2,527 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He has a 78.6 quarterback rating, which ranks 25th in the league. Ponder was asked if it was a better feeling to be drafted No. 1 — he was the Vikings’ first-round draft pick in 2011, selected No. 12 overall — or getting married.
“I liked being drafted No. 1,” Ponder said before asking if the cameras were rolling. “We’ll see how this marriage thing goes.”