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Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder gives out a Fathead poster to Nick Davis, 10, of West Fargo last Thursday afternoon at Scheels in south Fargo. David Samson / Forum Communications Co.

Ponder comes to Scheels

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Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder made an appearance at Scheels on Thursday to sign autographs for 500 fans and promote North Dakota's College SAVE plan.

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Ponder, the 12th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, attended Florida State University, where he earned a degree in finance in 2 1/2 years and later earned an Master of Business Administration degree in sports management.

"(In football,) you are one injury away from a career being ended," Ponder said. "To earn my bachelor's degree in finance and get my M.B.A. was a backup plan for me, in case this doesn't work out."

College SAVE, the state-sponsored 529 plan, helps families set money aside for future college costs and also provides special tax advantages and grant programs.

"In this economy, it's hard to afford (a college education), so that's why North Dakota teamed up and put this program together," Ponder said. "That's why I'm out here, and I'm looking forward to talking to around 500 people about it today."

After talking about the importance of education, Ponder shifted the discussion to the upcoming season. After a summer of organized team activities, he is ready for training camp to begin.

"I have a lot more confidence going into this year," Ponder said. "Last year was different with Donovan (McNabb), but this year knowing that it's my team... It's definitely a good feeling."

The Vikings finished 3-13 in the 2011 season, their worst season since 1984. According to Ponder, however, he likes being the "underdog" and their record is not indicative of their abilities.

"If you look at those games (from last season), nine of them were pretty close," Ponder said. "I think we'll surprise a lot of people this year. A lot of people are doubting us and predicting that we'll be fourth in the division... but that's not what we're expecting."

Despite his confidence in the team, Ponder believes that the Vikings' success relies on his performance.

"I have to play better. That's without a doubt," Ponder said. "The biggest thing for me is cutting down on turnovers. I've learned that if you turn the ball over, you're not going to win too many games."

Ponder, who tied a Vikings record by starting 10 games as a rookie last season, is convinced that he is a different quarterback with a full year's experience.

"I'm sure some of the veterans would be mad at me for saying this, but I kind of feel like a veteran," Ponder said. "I still have a lot to learn, though."

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