When Daunte Culpepper was taken by the Minnesota Vikings in 1999 and he put on the purple No. 11 jersey, the party started for him, but it only lasted for so long.
With guys like Cris Carter and Randy Moss, he was thrown to the Lions with Lions on his side. Soon after Carter’s departure, Culpepper would follow suit. In 2005, after he went down with a knee injury, he found himself calling Miami, Oakland and Detroit home in a span of just three years.
Since 2006, Culpepper has been in two of the toughest cities to play: Oakland and Detroit. Peyton Manning wouldn’t be able to keep a job in either city. Culpepper’s supporting cast has been far from supporting, and when a team struggles, the finger is either pointed at coaching or the man under center – and sometimes both.
The three-time NFL Pro Bowler found himself without a job in 2010, and his former head coach in Minnesota, Dennis Green, had one for him.
The same coach who drafted him out of the University of Central Florida was looking for a quarterback, and Culpepper was soon reunited with Green and Mike Kruczek, Culpepper’s offensive coordinator from his Central Florida days.
“Being able to be reunited with coach Green and my old college offensive coordinator coach Kruz (Mountain Lions offensive coordinator Mike Kruczek),” Culpepper said when asked what the highlight of the past season was.
Culpepper started all eight games this season for the UFL’s Sacramento Mountain Lions. He led the league in completions (183), attempts (300), passing yards (1,944) and completion percentage (61 percent). Culpepper also tied for the lead in passing touchdowns with10 while also scoring two on the ground.
A few Mountain Lions teammates have taken advantage of their situation and made that leap to the next level. Safety Andrew Sendejo was picked up by the Dallas Cowboys two weeks ago, and Culpepper’s backup, Richard Bartel, was signed by the Arizona Cardinals. If Culpepper gets a call this year, he’ll listen, but he’s shutting down for the rest of the year.
“I have committed to my family that I would take the rest of this year to be home with them,” Culpepper said. “I also feel strongly that as a quarterback, the best situations are where you can prepare to play rather than being thrown into playing, with little to no preparation, but with an expectation to be successful. Been there, done that!”
If Culpepper is unable to sign with an NFL squad, expect him to be back in Sacramento. He showed appreciation to the fans here and made it known that he isn’t done playing football quite yet.
“I loved playing for Sacramento this year. I expect that if I choose not to sign with an NFL team in this coming off-season, then I will be more than happy to re-sign with Sacramento,” he said. “I love playing the game, and I have a lot of football left in me! I can see why the UFL chose Sacramento as a place to have a team. They are a committed group! No fair-weather fans in Sacramento!”
On Monday night, Culpepper was named one of the 50 greatest players in Minnesota Vikings history. It’s hard to ignore the numbers he had early on in his career in Minnesota.
In his best statistical season Culpepper threw for 4,717 yards and 39 touchdowns with a passer rating of 110.9.
“I am really honored to be selected,” he said. “It will be tough to be on the sidelines watching instead of playing.”
The Sacramento team that had close to 50 players on its roster in its first season hopes that one of Minnesota’s top 50 will find himself in Sacramento come next season.