The Buffalo Bills have said this off-season that they will probably take a quarterback at some point in the 2011 NFL Draft. That has been well documented since it was said at the Senior Bowl.
If prior relationships have anything to do with it, Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder could be very much in the conversation for those honors.
A three-year starter for the Seminoles, Ponder has racked up 6,872 passing yards, 49 touchdown passes while throwing just 30 interceptions. In that time, he became a fan favorite for being able to escape tight situations with his feet and gaining large amounts of yards on the ground in clutch situations.
That bodes well for Ponder, especially considering what types of quarterbacks Chan Gailey has utilized throughout his entire offensive coaching career in the National Football League.
John Elway, Kordell Stewart, Jay Fiedler, Ray Lucas, Tyler Thigpen and now Ryan Fitzpatrick. With the exception of Troy Aikman in his two-year stint in Dallas, Gailey has relied on a mobile quarterback throughout his coaching career.
With Ponder and Gailey, there's some history there.
The former Florida State quarterback chose the Seminoles in 2006 over the likes of Iowa State, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Utah, Arizona and Baylor. But the runner up in his college choice were the Gailey coached Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Combine that with Gailey and the Bills staff working with Ponder for an entire week at the Senior Bowl, and it's easy to see there's some comfort there.
"I enjoyed it, [the Bills staff] were great with me," said Ponder. "Coach Cortez, and Coach Gailey and Coach Modkins. I had a former relationship with Coach Modkins and Coach Gailey as they recruited me to Georgia Tech. But it was great, I had a great time. Winning the game was obviously fun, and I enjoyed my week there."
But there is a hiccup with Ponder, and the Bills' head coach touched on that at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"He was hurt a lot," remarked Gailey. "That's always a question, and something that you have to make sure you research extensively to feel comfortable about a guy like that. But mentally and physically talent wise, he's fine."
That injury history riddle his senior season at Florida State. It all started in his junior season when Ponder threw an interception and tried to knock the defender out of bounds during the return. The only problem, he led with his shoulder and injured himself for the rest of the season, missing the final three games and requiring surgery.
Once getting healthy and ready for his senior year, Ponder then suffered an injury near his throwing elbow. That injury stuck with him all season, and he played through as best he could. It then led to another surgical procedure to correct that problem.
But Ponder had that surgery early enough to where he could be ready to participate fully in the Senior Bowl and all it's practices. That ended up being the wisest decision he could have made.
After seeing his draft stock fluctuate throughout the season, Ponder came away with the Most Valuable Player award honors after throwing for two touchdowns in Mobile.
Gailey coached him through that week, and from that came away with the impression that the former Florida State quarterback would ease right in to the NFL.
"He was in more of a traditional pro offense than maybe some of the other quarterbacks in the draft so I think his transition will be a little bit easier," the Bills head coach stated.
As for Ponder, he believes he's ready for the next level.
"I believe I'm the whole package as a quarterback," Ponder asserted. "Great accuracy, I can make all the throws. I think my intelligence is a huge advantage for me. I think I'll be able to comprehend offense, defense. We ran a complex offense at Florida State, so I think that's going to carry over well in to the NFL. I'm athletic enough to move in and out of the pocket and make plays with my feet."
Based off that quote, confidence doesn't run short for Ponder. But as a head coach in the NFL, Gailey believes in a talent like Ponder.
"I think he's got a chance to be very successful."
Ponder and the rest of the quarterbacks will throw in Indianapolis on Sunday at the NFL Scouting Combine.