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Remembering Daunte

Posted at 6:07 AM on September 5, 2008 by David Zingler

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Daunte Culpepper announced his retirement Thursday, but I don't believe for one second that he wouldn't pick up his phone if it happened to ring. That being said, I thought this would be a good time to look back at the career - the rise and fall - of the former Vikings star.

Coming off a 15-1 season and using the pick they acquired from Washington for Brad Johnson, the Vikings selected Culpepper out of Central Florida with the 11th overall pick in the 1999 draft. At the time the Vikings already had veteran QBs Randall Cunningham and Jeff George and many wondered why Dennis Green - with this newly acquired personnel power - chose the project QB over Jevon Kearse, who played DE, a weak spot on an otherwise stacked team.

Culpepper appeared in one game as a rookie and did not throw a pass, but after Cunningham flopped in 1999, the team opted not to re-sign George and Green failed to coax Dan Marino out of retirement, Culpepper was named the starter for the 2000 season.

The second year signal caller answered his critics by tossing 33 touchdown passes and running for 7 more while leading the Vikings to a division title (still their last to date) and the NFC Championship game. A true phenom, the NFL had never seen a QB as big - 6-4, 260 lbs - and as fast as Culpepper.

In 2001 things quickly went south for the Vikes. Korey Stringer collapsed and died in training camp, the early season was marred by sideline bickering and injuries limited Culpepper to 11 games. After a 5-11 season, Green was dismissed and Mike Tice took the helm.

Culpepper played his best football under Tice culminating with a career year in 2004. In that season, his last with Randy Moss, the 27-year-old completed 69% of his passes for 4,717 yards with 39 TDs against only 11 interceptions. The Vikings finished 8-8 but snuck into the playoffs and defeated division champ Green Bay in the Wildcard round.

I never thought Culpepper was treated fairly by Viking fans during the Tice years. From 2002-2005, the much maligned QB threw 88 TD passes versus 57 INTs while scoring 17 rushing touchdowns and losing just 9 fumbles. He was an elite quarterback during that era. It was the team's porous defense along with Red McCombs' stinginess that prevented the Vikings from reaching the Super Bowl, not Culpepper.

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Since 2005 things have not gone well for the former Pro Bowl QB. He was off to a rough start when a severe knee injury ended his season after 7 games. Culpepper then feuded with new coach Brad Childress about the details of his rehab and was shipped to Miami for a 2nd round draft pick (which turned out to be T Ryan Cook).

The Florida native rushed back too quickly from his injury and struggled early in the 2006 season before he was shelved after only 4 games. His reputation took further beating when sparred with Dolphins management prior to the 2007 season and was released.

Acting as his own agent, Culpepper brokered a one year deal with Oakland and appeared in 7 games with the Raiders last season - including a stop at the Metrodome in November - with mixed results.

The 31-year-old turned down offers from Green Bay and Pittsburgh this spring and then, out of the league as the season was set to begin, retired. I however, don't think we've seen the last of Daunte Culpepper.

(Photos courtesy of Getty Images)

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