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Updated: October 19th, 2012 2:19pm
Christian Ponder dating ESPN's Samantha Steele: 'Big news, huh?'

Christian Ponder dating ESPN's Samantha Steele: 'Big news, huh?'

by Tom Pelissero
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© AP 2012
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Christian Ponder noticed the crowd growing around his locker on Friday afternoon and couldn't help but laugh.

"This is big news, huh?" the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback said. "Good Lord."

Yes, Ponder is dating Samantha Steele, the ESPN sideline reporter he met a couple months ago on the set of "College GameDay."

And yes, Ponder knows that as an NFL quarterback, this type of thing is news. Sort of.

"There's been a thousand articles today about it," Ponder said. "You can't really worry about it. You've got to try to keep it private, but that's just part of the industry, part of the job. I don't know. Comes with the territory."

Ponder, 24, first tipped his hand about the relationship, when he tweeted -- and then deleted -- a short message on Oct. 2 saying "hello" to Steele, 26, who was with him at the time.

He said he meant the tweet as a joke because they were trying to keep things under wraps, but someone immediately responded to it.

On Thursday, he confirmed another tweet that they are, in fact, dating, leading to countless stories and blog posts before Ponder addressed the developing situation at Winter Park.

"I'm proud of the relationship," Ponder said, smiling. "I can brag. I've got bragging rights, I believe."

His teammates have been letting him hear about it, though.

The offensive linemen have begun calling him "Mr. Steele," and tight end Kyle Rudolph stopped by Friday's media scrum to joke this wouldn't have happened if the Vikings weren't winning.

"So, whatever," Ponder said. "Christian Steele is kind of a sweet name, don't you think?"

It's not the first time Ponder's dating life has made news.

Before the 2011 NFL Draft, in which the Vikings drafted Ponder 12th overall, noted he had been dating a budding model named Kacie McDonell.

Does this relationship have staying power?

"The cool thing is that obviously, we're both busy at the same time, so we don't get to see each other that much," Ponder said. "But at least one person isn't feeling guilty about not making the effort to do it or whatever. Then we kind of have the same schedule in the offseason, so that'll be good."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
In this story: Christian Ponder, Kyle Rudolph