Magazine article Newsweek

Bigger, Stronger, Faster: Culpepper Is a New Kind of Quarterback: Jumbo-Size

Magazine article Newsweek

Bigger, Stronger, Faster: Culpepper Is a New Kind of Quarterback: Jumbo-Size

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Starr and Allison Samuels

One by one, they've left the field. First John Elway in a blaze of Super Bowl glory, then Steve Young in a haze of concussions and, finally, Dan Marino with every passing record but no ring. When Troy Aikman and Brett Favre retire soon, it will mark the end of, arguably, the NFL's greatest quarterbacking era. But already a new class of quarterbacks--bigger, stronger, faster, more mobile and more likely than ever to be African-American (eight of 31 teams have had black starting QBs this year, an all-time high)--are ensuring that the NFL is in good hands. And making the biggest impression is Daunte Culpepper, who has, at season's midpoint, led the Minnesota Vikings to an NFL-best 7-1 record.

At 6 feet 4 and 265 pounds, Daunte, 23, is the largest quarterback in NFL history. He has played quarterback since a youth-football coach saw him gathering up footballs downfield and hurling them back effortlessly. "I've never thought of my size as a hindrance," Culpepper says. In fact, it's his size, coupled with great speed for a big man (he runs a 40 in 4.5 seconds), that's made him the game's premier pass-and-run threat. Currently he ranks fourth in passing accuracy, while also having rushed the ball for more than 300 yards.

Drafted out of little-known University of Central Florida, Culpepper was the least prominent of 1999's ballyhooed crop of rookie QBs. Five of those rookies wound up starting last year, but Culpepper remained the third-string backup and didn't throw a single pass. "It was real tough watching those guys do their thing," he says. …

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