Former Austinite and ESPN reporter Samantha Ponder — who was part of the Longhorn Network’s original on-air team — is opening up about her relationship with her new husband, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder.
Samantha, first introduced to TV sports viewers as Samantha Steele, joined ESPN’s Austin-based Longhorn Network in 2011 after a stint at Fox Sports Net and Fox College Sports. She’s now a sideline reporter and studio co-host for ESPN’s college football broadcasts.
“He started sending me messages on Twitter,” Samantha told TwinCities.com. “That was our original connection. Our version of Christian Mingle was on Twitter.”
In a recent interview with TwinCities.com, the new Mrs. Ponder shared details about how she and the NFL QB met and her passion for college football.
In the interview, Samantha revealed that the seeds of her relationship with Christian, who grew up in the Dallas suburb of Grapevine, were planted last year on Twitter. They were engaged last December and got hitched the same month.
“He started sending me messages on Twitter,” she said. “I’m like, ‘Why is this old Florida State quarterback messaging me? This is weird.’ He was always asking me random questions about living in Austin. Nothing creepy, but that was our original connection. Our version of Christian Mingle was on Twitter.”
Samantha said she responded to him on Twitter only because he wasn’t following any other women on the social media website.
“Usually these guys are all following porn stars or who knows what kind of women,” Samantha said. “There were little things like that pointing to maybe this is a different kind of guy.”
The couple — who share a deep faith in God — tied the knot in a no-frills, 20-minute civil ceremony in Wisconsin, then ate their wedding meal at Arby’s.
“We get way more attention than we ever deserve or need or want, because of our jobs,” Samantha said. “I don’t need a day that’s all about me. I was happy to go get married.”
She’s also happy that college football season is about to kick off.
“I’m so sick of Johnny Manziel signing this and this guy signing this. I love the game and the environment when those guys roll out of the tunnel,” she told TwinCities.com.
“I have an appreciation for the NFL and I love what Christian does, but there is nothing like a 75-degree Saturday afternoon standing on the football field, watching guys run out with 80,000 people around them. There’s something special about the environment in college football.”
Samantha, a Phoenix native, spent only about a year in Austin. The Liberty University graduate moved here to work for the Longhorn Network after volunteering for a month at an orphanage in Zimbabwe. The cable TV network launched in August 2011. Less than a year later, she was called up by ESPN to replace Erin Andrews, who left for Fox Sports.
“Austin is like a strange mix between Berkeley and Birmingham,” Samantha told ESPN back in 2011. “Picture a Prius with a gun rack. I’m not sure how, but I’m sure someone here has one.”
We don’t know whether Samantha ever spotted a gun-rack-equipped Prius in Austin. And we doubt they like to keep it that weird in her new home state of Minnesota.