A look back at UCF's own Daunte Culpepper

GO KNIGHTS Daunte Culpepper was UCF's highest drafted player when he was selected in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft.
Daunte Culpepper was UCF's highest drafted player when he was selected in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft.

July 18, 2007

Orlando, Fla. (www.UCFAthletics.com) - To help promote its senior all-star quarterback Daunte Culpepper in 1998, UCF Sports Information built a dedicated website at www.daunte.ucf.edu that featured a comprehensive view of its All-American candidate.

Reliving some of those glorious years when Daunte was leading the Knights' charge, we re-post this 1998 biography exactly as it was written for Daunte prior his selection by the Minnesota Vikings as the 11th pick in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft.


Daunte Culpepper is a poised, strong-armed quarterback who has all the tools. He runs a 4.6 in the 40, has a 36" vertical leap and can throw the ball 80 yards. As a result of his play on the field and his enormous popularity among fans and media off the field, elevated the University of Central Florida from an average I-AA program upon his arrival to a powerful I-A program on the verge of a top-25 ranking upon his departure. He capped a stellar career by putting his name at the top of virtually every quarterback record (more than 30 in all) at UCF. He also set an NCAA record for single-season completion percentage at .736, breaking a 15-year-old mark set by Steve Young (.713) and accomplished a feat equaled by only two others in NCAA history when he topped the 10,000 yard passing mark and the 1,000 yard rushing mark in his career. He finished his career with 11,412 yards passing and 1,020 yards rushing. The only other players to do so were Alcorn State's Steve McNair (1991-94) and Idaho's Doug Nussmeier (1990-93). He finished his career sixth on the NCAA's all-time total offense list for all divisions with 12,459 yards and was responsible for 108 career touchdowns (84 passing, 24 rushing). He is very adept at reading coverages and changing plays at the line of scrimmage and has the uncanny ability to scramble despite his big frame. In the spring prior to his senior season he tested highest on the team in the power clean, an exercise he was not required to test on, and one that he did not train for, with a lift of 330. He was near the top of the team in the squat with 455 and also bench pressed 345. Prior to his senior year he was invited to play in the Hula Bowl, the East-West Shrine Bowl, the Senior Bowl, the Blue-Gray Game and the Inaugural All-Star Gridiron Classic.


Culpepper entered his much-anticipated senior season with high expectations and he did not disappoint, leading UCF to its best record ever at 9-2. He was chosen preseason first-team All-American by The Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, Football Digest, Sportsfan Enterprises, NFL Draft Report and Playboy. He was arguably the most publicized college quarterback in the country with television features on Good Morning America, CNN/SI, ESPN, George Michael Sports Machine, Last Word with Jim Rome, The Slant, ABC Nightly News with Peter Jennings and Hard Copy. He was also the subject of newspaper features in nearly every major market daily including New York, Boston, Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver, Washington D.C, Houston, Miami, and Atlanta.

He finished the year by completing 296 of 402 attempts (.736) for 3,690 yards and 28 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. He also carried the ball 141 times for 463 yards and 12 touchdowns. He finished the year third in the nation in passing efficiency at 170.24 and third in the nation in total offense at 377.55. He was named first team All-American by the Sports Network and NFL Draft Report. He was named Player of the Year by the Sports Network, along with Texas running back Ricky Williams. The NFL Draft Report named him the Dream Team Player of the Year as the top draft prospect. He was named Independent Player of the Year by Football News as well as honorable mention All-America by that publication. He was a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award and finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy balloting. He finished seventh in the balloting for the Associated Press Player of the Year and was named a Positive Performer by USA Today Online for community service and academics.

He got the season started on the right foot at Louisiana Tech by rolling up 439 yards of total offense (370 passing, 69 rushing) and accounted for six touchdowns (four passing, two rushing) as UCF won against the favored Bulldogs 64-30. He topped the 8,000 yard passing mark in the game and became the school's all-time leader in pass completions, eclipsing Darin Hinshaw's (1991-94) mark of 614. He led the Golden Knights at one point in the game to scores on eight straight possessions, including five consecutive touchdowns. He was named USA Today Online Independent Player of the Week against the Bulldogs, an honor he would earn three times during the year.

A week later he had another stellar performance, rolling up 479 yards of total offense in a 48-0 win at home against Eastern Illinois. He completed 28 of 33 attempts, including 12 consecutive at one point, for 406 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He also rushed for 73 yards and scored three touchdowns on 12 carries. For the second consecutive game, Culpepper was the Golden Knights' leading rusher. In the process he became the school's all-time leader in total offense. His total of 479 yards fell just one yard shy of his own school record for total offense in a single game. He tied a school record with his second career 400-yard passing game and earned USA Today national Player of the Week honors as well as his second consecutive USA Today Online Independent Player of the Week mention.

In his national television debut on ESPN at Purdue he held up well under extreme duress (18 pressures). He was sacked twice and knocked down numerous times after delivering the ball. He finished the game completing 30 of 47 passes for 368 yards and one touchdown and had another potential touchdown pass go through the hands of one of his receivers in a disappointing 35-7 loss. He finished with 375 yards of total offense against a stingy Boilermaker defense, earning him ESPN Player of the Game honors and moving him into the top spot in the nation in total offense with an average of 431 yards per game.

He bounced back a week later and became the school's all-time leading passer with a 23 of 32 performance for 320 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-31 win at Bowling Green. He moved ahead of Darin Hinshaw who passed for 9,000 yards during his career. He hooked up with Mark Nonsant on a 68-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter for the record en route to leading UCF back from a two touchdown deficit. Showing his versatility, he also rushed for a touchdown and caught a 21-yard pass.

He amassed 395 yards of total offense and fashioned his second come-from-behind victory of the season, turning a seven point fourth-quarter deficit into a 31-24 victory at Toledo. He completed a school record 36 passes on 49 attempts for 342 yards and two touchdowns. He also had 13 carries for 53 yards and registered his 19th career rushing touchdown. In the process of the game he topped the 10,000 yard career mark for total offense.

Against Northern Illinois in Orlando he rushed for a one-yard touchdown to break a third-quarter tie and then extended the lead on UCF's next possession with a 55-yard bomb to Nonsant en route to leading the Golden Knights to a 38-17 victory. He completed 28 of 33 attempts for 327 yards and also rushed for 38 yards on 13 carries. In the process of rolling up 365 yards he became the state of Florida's all-time leader in total offense, topping the University of Florida's Danny Wuerffel, who had 10,500 yards from 1993-96.

The records fell again the following week as he passed for a school-record 438 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for a pair of touchdowns in a 42-10 win against Southwestern Louisiana. In the process he topped the 10,000 yard career passing mark and the 11,000 yard total offense plateau and earned his third USA Today Online Independent Player of the Week award.

He continued his hot streak a week later, completing 31 of 41 attempts for 347 yards and four touchdowns while leading UCF to a 44-32 victory in Orlando against Youngstown State. He also carried the ball 14 times for 63 yards and one touchdown. In the process of amassing 410 yards of total offense he moved to eighth place in the all-time NCAA total offense list for all divisions moving ahead of Boston College's Doug Flutie.

He and the rest of the offense struggled, uncharacteristically, against a highly-touted Auburn defense (tops in the SEC and ninth in the nation) in a heartbreaking 10-6 loss. He completed 24 of 37 passes for only 182 yards and was intercepted four times. It was his lowest output of the season, snapping a string of eight-consecutive 300-yard passing games. He failed to throw a touchdown pass in the game, breaking his consecutive games streak with at least one touchdown at 22. Lost in the shuffle of the disappointing loss was the fact he broke his own single-season passing record of 3,086 yards. He carried the ball 22 times for a net of 14 yards after being sacked seven times. His four interceptions were the most of his career and brought his season total to seven. It was only his first multiple interception game in his last 11.

He bounced back a week later and continued his assault of the record books by completing 28 of 33 attempts, including 12 consecutive at one point, for 327 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 36 yards and another score as UCF defeated Ball State 37-14 in front of a homecoming crowd of 31,412. He broke two single-season school records in the process of bringing his 1998 totals to 3,427 yards passing and 3,796 total yards. He also tied the school mark with his 26th touchdown toss. It was his ninth 300-yard passing game of the season and the 17th of his career.

In his swan song in front of the faithful home crowd as well as 15 NFL scouts he completed 23 of 32 attempts for 263 yards and two touchdowns and carried the ball 18 times for 94 yards en route to leading UCF to a 38-6 win at home against New Mexico. He showed his appreciation to the fans with an address over the P.A. system after the final horn.


As a junior Culpepper had a record-setting year while leading a young Division I-A program into Nebraska as well as the stadiums of four established Southeastern Conference foes. The year culminated with him being voted the Florida Sports Hall of Fame's People's Choice Award winner as the male amateur athlete of the year in the state of Florida. He finished fourth in the nation in total offense with an average of 320 yards per game and 15th in passing efficiency with a rating of 146.91. As a team, UCF finished 11th in passing offense with an average of 289.7 yards, 26th in total offense with 417.1 yards, 16th in scoring with an average of 34 points and converted 42 of 46 chances (.913) in the red zone.

Culpepper's many honors include being named a finalist for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award; a semifinalist for the Football News Offensive Player of the Year; and First-Team All-American by the NFL Draft Report. He was also named to the American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team, an honor given to 22 players, 11 from Division I-A and 11 from all other divisions, for balancing academics and athletics and going above and beyond in the area of volunteerism and community service. He was also was voted the United States Postal Service College Football Player of the Week after a win at Kent as well as Sports Network Offensive Player of the Week after the Mississippi State and Northeast Louisiana games, becoming the first to ever earn that honor in back-to-back weeks. He was named Player of the Week by Gridiron Report after the win against Samford. He was rated the nation's premier quarterback and second-best offensive prospect (behind Marshall's Randy Moss) by The Poor Man's Guide to the NFL Draft and was named Football News honorable mention All-American.

He set 15 school records during the course of the season, most notably single-season passing and single-season total offense. He passed for 3,086 yards on the year, eclipsing the previous mark of 3,054 by Darin Slack in 1987. He shattered the total offense mark of 3,047 by Slack in the same year with an amazing 3,524 yards passing and rushing. He rushed for 438 yards and five touchdowns, including runs of 44 and 75 yards. With sack yardage subtracted, Culpepper's average per carry was seven yards. His best performance of the year came at Northeast Louisiana when he accounted for a school-record 480 yards of total offense, passing for 385 yards and five touchdowns and running for 95 yards and another touchdown, a 44-yarder. After the game, while signing autographs for a youth football team, one wide-eyed youngster, obviously impacted by the performance he saw, said to Culpepper, "How come there's a pro quarterback playing in college?" A week prior against Mississippi State he rolled up 420 total yards (359 passing and 61 rushing), giving him a two-week total of 900 yards.

The game that put him on the map nationally in '97 was at Nebraska when he completed 24 of 35 passes (.686) for 318 yards and a touchdown and carried the ball 13 times for 34 yards and a touchdown against the then sixth-ranked Cornhuskers. UCF led three times in the first half, including 17-14 at the break, before losing 38-24. Culpepper scored on a 10-yard run in which he fought off tacklers and powered his way to the endzone, earning the team's "Big Stick" award in the process. After the game Cornhusker All-America rush end Grant Wistrom said of Culpepper, "He's one of the best quarterbacks in the country. You're not going to find many quarterbacks that have the combination of size, speed and the accuracy he has with his arm."

Five times during the season he passed for more than 300 yards, including four consecutive games, and five times he passed for at least three touchdowns. He has thrown a touchdown pass in the last 14 games. He set school single-season records for highest completion percentage (.625) and lowest interception percentage (.026) and threw a school-best 117 attempts without an interception during a three-game stretch. He opened the season with three touchdowns against Mississippi and South Carolina, extending his string of three-touchdown games from the previous season to four. In the 59-43 win at Kent he accounted for 390 yards of total offense en route to earning USPS College Football Player of the Week honors. He completed 26 of 35 passes (.743) for 322 yards and four touchdowns and also scored on a 75-yard quarterback draw in which he outran the entire Golden Flash secondary. It was the second longest run in school history and the longest ever by a quarterback. Against Samford he set the school mark for consecutive completions with 15 en route to completing 26 of 31 (.839) for 309 yards and three touchdowns before coming out after the third quarter. After completing 19 of 30 passes (.633) for 210 yards and a touchdown against eighth-ranked Auburn, Tigers' cornerback Martavious Houston said of Culpepper, "People say that he's the total package -- believe it -- he's a great quarterback." For good measure he also excelled in the classroom, earning a spot on the Athletic Director's Honor Roll both semesters and also earning the school's award for Football on National Student-Athlete Day.


As a sophomore Culpepper started strong and finished strong while UCF played its first season at the I-A level. He was a pre-season All-America selection and first-team All-Independent by the NFL Draft Report and was named that publication's premier sophomore. He entered the season ranked the second-best quarterback in the state behind Florida's Danny Wuerffel by Florida Sportsfan magazine. He was also ranked the 13th best signal caller in the nation by Bob Griese's 1996 College Football Yearbook. He threw for more than 2,500 yards on the year despite missing 10 quarters of action due to ankle and shoulder injuries. He completed 187 of 314 passes (.596) for 2,565 yards with 19 touchdowns on the year and was named UCF's Offensive MVP. In UCF's final three games (all wins), Culpepper passed for 1,008 yards, despite playing only 10 of the 12 quarters. During that stretch Culpepper completed 60 of 95 passes (.631) and threw eight touchdowns with only two interceptions. He finished the season ranked 18th in the nation in total offense (242.45) and 22nd in passing efficiency (138.6). UCF finished 16th in the nation in passing offense.

Culpepper opened the season by orchestrating a dramatic come-from-behind fourth quarter victory against William & Mary on Sunshine Network. Trailing 30-17 with 14:56 remaining, he strapped the team on his back and led it to victory, atoning for two interceptions and a fumble he lost early in the game. Twice he kept drives alive with third-down scrambles and once with a fourth-down keeper. He completed six of eight passes for 56 yards and a touchdown and rushed five times for 49 yards in the final quarter as UCF completed the 39-33 comeback. He finished the game with 307 yards and three touchdowns on 26 completions. For good measure he also earned the "Big Stick" award for the biggest hit in the game, a block on a running play. Afterward UCF coach Gene McDowell said, "I'm a tremendous Culpepper fan...right at the end of the third quarter he just took over. The whole fourth quarter was the Daunte Culpepper Show."

He kept that hot streak going the following week against South Carolina before suffering a sprained left ankle early in the fourth quarter. He marched UCF down the field on its opening possession, completing five of six passes for 50 yards and a touchdown, giving the Golden Knights an early lead. He completed 14 of 23 attempts for 159 yards with a pair of touchdowns in the first half. He wound up 18 of 32 for 210 yards with two touchdowns before limping off the field in the fourth.

The following week against New Mexico he completed 10 of 15 passes for 123 yards before reinjuring his ankle and had to be lifted after UCF's first possession in the third quarter. He battled that injury the following two weeks in games at Ball State and East Carolina, coming out before the final horn. He returned healthy against Samford and completed 13 of 19 passes for 162 yards with two touchdowns before coming out to give Jason Thorpe and Kevin Reid some reps in the fourth quarter. A week later against Northeast Louisiana he completed only his second game of the year, throwing for 195 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 12 of 26 passing. Against Georgia Tech he played the entire first half despite suffering a separated shoulder (non-throwing) early in the second quarter. He completed 12 of 16 passes for 145 yards before being replaced.

In UCF's 42-15 homecoming win against Illinois State, Culpepper wasted no time getting to work, passing for 260 yards with two touchdowns and did not even complete the first half, coming out with 1:40 remaining in the second quarter, opting to rest his shoulder. He had a career day the following week at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., against UAB, completing 24 of 36 passes for 421 yards and three touchdowns in UCF's 35-13 victory. During the game he completed 12 consecutive passes, tying his personal best set on opening night as a freshman. He also rushed for a touchdown against the Blazers. Again he was pulled with time remaining to give Thorpe some playing time. He closed the season with a 17-for-31 performance for 327 yards with three touchdowns against Bowling Green, his fourth career game with more than 300 yards passing. It was only his third complete game of the season.


As a freshman Culpepper had a phenomenal year despite losing his best receiver (Rufus Hall) in the second game and playing the entire year without All-American Todd Cleveland. He completed 168 of 294 passes (.571) for 2,071 yards with 12 touchdowns. His 2,071 yards was the sixth-best single-season total in school history and the most-ever by a freshman. He also rushed for five touchdowns and was named UCF's Most Outstanding Offensive Rookie. He finished 28th in the nation in passing efficiency (122.9) and 40th in total offense (189.9).

He lived up to all the advance billing and pre-season hype on opening night, starting his college career with a bang. He completed his first 12 pass attempts, displaying the poise of a veteran from the opening drive. After being sacked on the first play from scrimmage he bounced back and finished the drive by going five-for-five for 84 yards, successfully changing the play at the line of scrimmage four times. He capped the drive with a 24-yard scoring strike to Hall. He finished the game completing 20 of 25 passes (with two throwaways) for 254 yards and three touchdowns in a 40-32 upset of fifth-ranked Eastern Kentucky Aug. 31, earning him Sports Network I-AA Offensive Player of the Week honors. He caught the eye of Joe Namath who watched Culpepper's performance on Sunshine Network, resulting in unsolicited praise and a comparison to Dan Marino by the NFL Hall-of-Famer the following day on Pete Rose's national radio call-in show. UCF coach Gene McDowell described that game by saying, "Spectacular and extraordinary do not begin to describe it. My guess is that it was the best first-time performance by any freshman quarterback at any level." That performance along with others early in the season prompted numerous feature stories, including one on the cover of the New York Times sports section.

He threw for a season-high 307 yards on 22 completions in a 35-21 victory against visiting Carson-Newman Sept. 9. He set a school record for completion percentage in a game (.875), when he connected on 14 of 16 attempts for 184 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for a score in a 41-14 victory against Samford Oct. 7. He completed 26 of 38 passes for 252 yards and rushed for one touchdown in 45-14 loss at Hawaii. He finished the season strong with a 184-yard, two touchdown performance as UCF closed its final I-AA season with a 37-17 victory at home against Maine Nov. 18. He was named third-team I-AA All-American and Freshman Offensive Player of the Year by The Poor Man's Guide to the NFL Draft and was lauded with all-freshman honors by College & Pro Football Newsweekly. Intrigued by the reports he heard of Culpepper, presidential candidate Phil Gramm made a special trip to the campus during his campaign to meet him.

High School

Culpepper graduated from Ocala's Vanguard High School in 1995 where he played for coach Phil Yancey. He set the school record for career passing with 6,107 yards and 57 touchdowns in three seasons. He also rushed for 927 yards and 26 more touchdowns. He passed for 3,074 yards with 31 touchdowns and rushed for another 602 yards as a senior, earning All-America honors and the title "Mr. Football" by the Florida Athletic Coaches Association. Culpepper led Vanguard to its first undefeated regular season and the Class 5A state championship game where a missed chip shot field goal as time expired gave Bradenton Southeast a 19-17 victory over the Knights. His stature grew in that game with a legendary scramble for first down on a 4th and 20 during the game's final drive. He completed eight of 13 passes for 137 yards in a winning effort in the annual Florida-Georgia High School All-Star Game. Culpepper also lettered in basketball, baseball and weightlifting at Vanguard and was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 26th round, despite already signing with UCF. He averaged 19.5 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 3.3 steals on the hardwood. He was named to the honor roll as a senior. He chose UCF because of the commitment made by the coaching staff to stick by him even though he was in danger of not qualifying academically. After it appeared he was going to qualify, a lot of traditional football powers tried to persuade him to back away from his decision to sign with UCF. Personal

Culpepper is majoring in secondary education. He was born Jan. 28, 1977 in Ocala, and is the son of Emma Culpepper. He is very popular in the community and participates in outreach opportunities to the underprivileged, stressing the importance of education. He served as a local spokesman on a televised public service announcement in conjunction with the Dr. Martin Luther King week of celebration in January, 1998. He is also an avid golfer



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