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NFL Draft '99
      

Daunte does the draft

Looking for an athlete? Look no farther than Culpepper

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Posted: Wednesday April 14, 1999 01:20 AM

  A phenomenal athlete, Culpepper threw for 84 touchdowns and more than 11,000 yards at Central Florida. Harry How/Allsport

ATLANTA (CNN/SI) -- When it comes to flat-out good athletes in this weekend's NFL Draft, it may be hard to find a better one than Daunte Culpepper, the University of Central Florida's studly quarterback.

"When I got into college, I wanted to be the strongest, the quickest, the biggest -- just wanted to be the best," Culpepper said. "I think that comes from my competitive nature. That's why I work so hard in the weight room. I think working hard in the weight room makes me a better athlete. I really believe that."

At 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, and with 4.6-second speed in the 40, Culpepper seemingly has it all. Add to that an arm that has the range of a cruise missile, and Culpepper has everything it takes to make NFL personnel folks do backflips.

"Daunte is an impressive physical specimen. Big, tough a live arm," said Tom Donahoe, the director of football operations for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"Daunte Culpepper is probably one of the most impressive physical athletes of the quarterbacks you're going to see this year," said Brian Billick, the new head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, "simply because of his size and strength. Yet he's very mobile as well."

Culpepper rewrote the record books at Central Florida, throwing for 84 touchdowns and more than 11,000 yards . But he didn't face Division I-caliber defenses each weekend because UCF, entering its fourth season as a I-A school this fall, still has some smaller schools on its schedule.

So Culpepper, to many, is considered to be a work in progress -- albeit an extremely talented one.

"How much will the level of competition hurt him? No one really knows until he gets into the NFL and how quickly he's able to make the adjustments he has to make," Donahoe said.

"When you look at smaller D-I schools, look for a guy that is dominant," said San Diego Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard. "Daunte is dominant. He does everything."

One of the many NFL coaches who is impressed with Culpepper is Tony Dungy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who has seen a lot of the quarterback.

"He's played for four years, thrown a lot of passes and [I] got to see him make decisions and do things in that offense that he has to do at the pro level," Dungy said.

"It might take him an extra year of mini-camps and training camp to reach the same level as [Kentucky quarterback Tim] Couch, but, ultimately, he will," said former 49ers coach Bill Walsh. "If someone would have patience with him, and not get fired in the meantime, whoever takes him is going to have an ultimate star."

Culpepper's physical presence alone demands attention. But he has shown he can win, too -- UCF was 9-2 this season.

"I look at myself as a leader," he said. "I feel like I'm a guy that has play-making ability that can make plays and get the job done in that aspect, as well."

Culpepper will be in New York on Saturday for the first round of the draft, where he'll be joined by his mother, Emma. She adopted Daunte when she was 62 after raising 14 other children. It will be her first airplane trip, and she'll be the first person Culpepper turns to when his name is called.

"Words cannot describe that, because she is the No. 1 thing in my life right now, and without her I don't know where I'd be," he said. "I can't put into words ... [I'll] hug her and give her that big kiss."

It's likely that embrace will happen early. Culpepper is expected to be one of the first 10 picks in the draft.

 
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