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Monday Morning Mailbag: Daunte Culpepper Gets Roll On Through Fans' Questions

Daunte Culpepper_Game_Photo

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

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I'm excited to introduce this special edition of the Monday Morning Mailbag featuring Daunte Culpepper.

I've had the benefit of interviewing multiple Vikings Legends over the years, but this was the first opportunity I've ever had to speak with Daunte. Thanks to him for being so gracious with his time and to everyone who submitted a question. It was a treat to relay those and ask a few of my own. You'll find I asked a couple of follow-ups within the conversation, and I'll place a couple of my inquiries below.

I'd also like to thank everyone who submitted a question for Daunte. He smiled and laughed a lot through the memories. It is clear how much he appreciates the support he received — and continues to receive — from Vikings fans.

Daunte joined multiple Vikings Legends who returned to Minnesota (and several who already are in town) to participate in the Minnesota Vikings Foundation Golf Tournament presented by Molson Coors.

Giving back to the community spans multiple generations of Vikings, and Daunte credited the late Vikings Ring of Honor Head Coach Dennis Green for impacting his contemporaries with a spirit of giving back.

View images of former Vikings Head Coach Dennis Green.

"Coach Green will always be one of my favorite people," Daunte said. "He was a no-nonsense type of guy, and it was contagious, his love of football. He was an old-school type of coach. He just exemplified being the best you could be. He didn't want to hear about excuses. He wanted to get it done. That trickled down to the team. He was a great leader. He was a great person. He was a great family man and a great dad to his kids and a great husband to his wife. He was a great example for a young man like me. I will always be appreciative to him for setting a great example for me.

"He was big on Community Tuesdays and also understood guys need their own time," Daunte added. "You can have your own time, but you've got to also connect with the community. I just love the guy. It was sad to hear he had passed away."

But that spirit can be carried on by those Green impacted and throughout the NFL, which has spread community programs across the country with the Community Tuesdays model in mind.

Lastly, thanks so much to everyone who has followed along with our coverage of the 2024 Vikings offseason program and who continues to check in through the Mailbag.

The Vikings close the office for the week of the Fourth of July, which is sincerely appreciated as a time for rest and rejuvenation three weeks before training camp will open. That means we'll take Monday, July 1 off and return on Monday, July 8. Please feel free to send questions during the gap.

Now, let's get our Culpepper roll on with the questions.

Growing up as a kid, your "Get your roll on" was one of my favorite TD celebrations. Is there a story behind how it came to be? And what is your favorite/most memorable Vikings game you played in? Thank you for all the memories.

— Andy Pothen (via X)

I have some friends of mine that were in the music business, Cash Money Records. Baby (Bryan "Baby" Williams) and Lil Wayne. They were in The Hot Boyz, but Cash Money Records had a song called "Get Your Roll On," and the owner of that record company was a good friend of mine, and every time I would see him, he'd say, "Pep,' go out there and get your roll on." So it became my celebration, so thank you. I remember throwing a touchdown and I did the celebration. I got my roll on, and it kind of took off from there. People liked it and I liked it. It was an example of having fun and enjoying yourself. That was pretty much it. It became a staple. Even if I'm walking through an airport and see a fan, they're still like, 'Get your roll on, Pep.' That kind of stuck with me. I just thought it was great.

I had a few most memorable games. I think the game against Green Bay. It was the opening game of the season, 2003, in Green Bay, the newly renovated stadium. They made a big deal about it, and we went in there and whooped up on them. That was one of my favorite games. It was one of those games where everything went right, everything you could think of — (snaps fingers three times) — play after play after play. It was just awesome. We ruined their opening shindig.

Hi! Loved watching you "get your roll on!" I was wondering how did it feel on draft day, being drafted by the Vikings AND knowing you were gonna throw touchdowns to Randy Moss [after his] electrifying rookie [season]!


— Cinbrella in Indianapolis

Oh man, it was one of the greatest days of my life. To be drafted was just such a huge goal of mine and a huge accomplishment for me personally.

Being able to play with a talent like Randy, I had known Randy before we came to the NFL. When he was at Florida State, we had mutual friends and met then. Being drafted and having a chance to go out there and play with someone like him and Cris Carter — that whole team was loaded with talent. I was very fortunate.

View the best photos of Vikings legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss.

You were an amazing QB. When you think back on your career, what elements or situations helped you develop into such a strong leader on the field. You had an impressive command of the game. How can the Vikings use your experience to develop their young/untried QBs?

— Laurie Ollhoff in Lakeville, Minnesota

That's a good question. Growing up, I had a lot of family, little cousins and other family members that I had to look out for, and I think that rolled over into sports, where being a competitor, wanting to be great, I think that foundation of being a kid and having to look out for the other kids kind of steered me in that direction, I would say.

I guess nobody wakes up and says, "I want to be a leader." It just naturally happened.

You felt people looking at you and found you had that ability?

Yeah, I would say that. I think it came from my mom. She raised her brother's 12 kids. The woman who adopted me raised her brother's 12 kids and always had that leader mentality. I saw that every day, and I think that kind of rubbed off on me.

I was just speaking to the rookies [at a team meeting on June 10]. One thing I told J.J. McCarthy is he's in a similar situation where I had two veterans in front of me in my rookie year, and the team wasn't expecting me to play. I told him, "Don't fall in the trap of everybody saying, 'We don't expect you to play.' No, prepare like you're going to play. Even if you're not the starter, prepare like you are the starter, and every day at practice, use that as your game." You win over the team that way, because you're going against the first-team defense as a scout player, and you gain a rapport with those guys. What it does is build your confidence in you as a player, so that's what I told him, "Lose yourself in the playbook, be as prepared as possible as you can every day, and just compete to be the best you can be." I don't think J.J. is going to have a problem doing that because I watched him in college, and he's an absolute baller. He's just got to take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself, and I think he will.

When you mentioned "prepare like you are playing," was that the approach you took?

Absolutely. Every day, my goal was to try to demolish — I wanted to demolish our first-team defense. To them, it was just practice, but I loved when the veteran guys would come up in my rookie year, "Hey man, you're going too hard. It's just practice." In my head, I'm like, "Yeah, it's just practice to you, but to me, this is my game." That prepared me for actual games, and it was a smoother transition because of my intensity and attention to detail in practice just transferred over to when I was preparing for games as a starter.

Daunte Culpepper, Randy Moss, and Mike Tice on the sideline during a game.
Daunte Culpepper, Randy Moss, and Mike Tice on the sideline during a game.

Big fan of anything Vikings and especially the mid-90s. I remember how incredible the first year was with Moss, Jake Reed, Carter, Robert Smith and Randall Cunningham. Then came Culpepper. I remember the comments from Dennis Green about getting the keys to the car. Man, it was an impressive year. I remember how that year ended. I also remember that first game. The thing that stands out most was the fact Daunte was a 266-pound QB and was impossible to tackle. Had a great year in 2000. Daunte seemed to step in immediately and dominate. My question is, was it as easy with your weight and size to run through the linebackers as you made it look? Could you tell a difference in the way teams prepared for you in 2001 compared to 2000? One of my favorite QBs of all time. Really appreciate the effort. Thanks for being such an energetic part of the team's history. It was awesome to watch live. I can still remember how pumped I was afterwards.

— J.J. Marr

Note: Daunte confirmed that he played at "about 270" pounds.

I wouldn't say it was easy. It never was easy, but I would just fall back on my preparation, not just in the classroom, in the playbook, but also in the weight room, taking care of my body and just being in the best physical shape.

I always prided myself on being a strong guy. I didn't ever want to be outpowered in a game, so I wanted to have that unique edge. For a DB, it would be hard for him to tackle me because I was physically bigger, but a linebacker or a defensive tackle, I'm quicker, so I wanted to have an edge in either situation. That was my goal. It was great times, going out there.

Talking about getting the keys to the car, that's exactly what it was, and the car was a Ferrari.

I got to see greatness every day, so I just wanted to be a part of that.

I definitely could see a difference in 2001. Teams didn't want us to beat them with the big play, so it made me be a little more patient. Instead of taking shots, I had to dink and dunk and be patient. They were gambling on, 'Oh, he won't be patient enough.' That's what I was coached to do, but that's a lot easier said than done, too. When you've got guys like Cris and Randy outside, they're like, "Hey man, throw it any way." I know you want me to throw it up, but I can't because there's two guys back there and they get paid, too. They're good players, and we don't want to put ourselves in bad situations.

It was still awesome, and I would say the biggest difference in how teams prepared against us was to take away the big play and make me be methodical and disciplined and take the underneath routes.

Daunte Culpepper during a game
Daunte Culpepper during a game

What does it mean to you to hear these positive memories from fans?

It always feels good to have somebody that's appreciative of the effort you put forth. I'll say this: every game I ever played here in Minnesota, it was always sold out. The fans here love Minnesota football. It was a great experience for me, and I don't think I could have been in a better situation from the standpoint of the electricity that the fans put forth for the games. It was literally electric. You could feel it in the air. It was awesome. I know other places might have something similar, but here in Minnesota, it was great to me.

How did it feel to score a rushing touchdown and beat Derrick Brooks at the goal line? From my view, he looked like he didn't want any part of it. You guys were awesome!

— Rick in Stillwater, Oklahoma

(Laughs) D.B., man, Derrick Brooks is a generational talent, but it was great. We got the victory. I know what he's talking about when I dove at the goal line and ran him over. That was awesome. It just had to be done. It was one of those, "It's either you or me," and in that instance, I prevailed. It's just great to be able to compete against guys of that caliber throughout my career. That was a great victory. It was a great day for the Vikings, and I'm proud to have been a part of that.

Derrick Brooks was an absolute stud. He was one of the best linebackers to ever play the game. On that play, sometimes they get the best of you, and sometimes you get the best of them. That day, I got the best of him, and I'm happy for it. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't like to talk about that too much if he was here.

Who would you rather throw to: Randy Moss or Justin Jefferson?

Thank you!

— Mike Dugo

I'm going to be biased, but Randy. I actually played with Randy, but Justin is a baller. He's definitely one of the tops in the league, but I'll be biased and say Randy.

Do you see similarities?

Definitely in Justin's ability to make a big play when you need it. He has that "it" factor. He has everything you want in a receiver, the speed.

It seems like both guys have the ability to sneak up on defensive backs.

Definitely — and just run by them. Justin's always been that way. He's always made big plays, even through college. I watched him in college, but when I see that, I see the work ethic a guy puts in. I can tell that he's been working. That's the one similarity I think a lot of people don't see.

Randy was a very hard worker, and so is Justin. People don't pay attention to that because a lot of times it's behind the scenes and nobody sees it. They only see the end result, you catching an 80-yard touchdown. They don't see you put in this work every day before the game. I would say they're very similar in that aspect because I've seen how Justin prepares. I was up here on a Saturday and watched him and paid attention to detail, and Randy was just like that.

What was it like the first time you walked on the field and looked around and realized you were talented enough to make a really good NFL team?

I think the spring after my rookie year, Denny named me the starter. Cris Carter had a football training facility in Boca Raton, Florida. He called me and invited me down, so I went down there for two months. It was myself, Randy, Cris, Jake Reed, Isaac Bruce, other players from other teams that would train there, so I would get to work out with these guys. I would compete with these guys in the workout sessions and see I was just as fast as them and probably stronger than a lot of them. It was great for me to be around those guys every day like that and then when training camp started, it was a smooth transition.

That spring before my first training camp as a starter, that was huge for me. For me to get to know them on a personal level was good, and then I was able to show them, "Hey, I want to do what it takes to win." I think I gained a lot of respect from Cris and the older guys by going down there.

View photos of Vikings legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter.

A couple more memories, if you don't mind revisiting the winning 2-point conversion at New Orleans (Dec. 15, 2002). It was the first time an NFL game had been decided on a 2-point conversion.

That was a good one there. I remember we had first-and-goal. First down, incomplete. Second down, incomplete. Third down, I think I hit Randy on the slant for the touchdown and then we were down 1. I remember [former Head Coach Mike] Tice was like, "What do you think?" I was like, "Coach, I was always brought up that if you're on the road, you go for the win, and if you're at home, you tie it up and try to win in overtime." On the road, you win it right there, and he made the decision to go for it. He called the quarterback draw. [Matt] Birk snaps the ball, and it hits my damn foot. (Laughs). I tried to tap it up and grabbed it. It was just one of those plays, everything was blocked up good. I just had to get a hold of the ball and fall in the end zone.

I think we were 3-10 and ended up winning our last three games and that catapulted us to the next year, and we won our first six the next year. It got us rolling, got us some momentum, but every game in the NFL is a big game because it's the best of the best.

We had some good battles against the Saints.

And then what about the Moss-to-Moe Williams lateral against the Broncos the following season? You had to buy some time before throwing to Randy, and it made the NFL 100 Greatest Plays.

Oh yeah, that was crazy, but you know what? That play, we would do that so much in practice. Randy or Cris would catch it and flip it to the running back. Nobody knew he was going to do it in the game, but Moe was hustling like always, and Randy saw him and flipped it to him.

I remember Randy saying, "I don't think Pep' can get it to the end zone." I could have gotten it to the end zone, but I saw where he was, and it wouldn't have made sense to throw it to the end zone because there were five guys back there, so I put it on a rope, just to try to get it closer to get a field goal. I didn't know he was going to flip it to him. That was one of the greatest plays I've seen in pro football, but I saw it all the time in practice.

How far could you throw the ball?

I could throw it 75-plus yards. When I was playing, I could get on one knee at the 50-yard line and throw it through the goal post. The goal post is another 10. People don't believe I could do it. JaMarcus Russell couldn't do it when I was with the Raiders.

By the way, on the famous play, Daunte was at the Minnesota 40-yard line when he threw the ball to Moss, who caught the ball at the Denver 10 and made a couple of steps back toward his QB to elude defenders. Moss then casually flipped the ball over his right shoulder before he was tackled at the 15. Williams caught it in stride and streaked for the score.

But yeah, he definitely could have gotten the ball to the end zone.