Vikings' QB One of NFL's Heaviest

Saturday, August 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper has a fullback's physique and a tailback's glide.

Although two-a-days might have taken a little weight off, the 6-foot-4 Culpepper checked into training camp at 266 pounds — bigger than any of Purple People Eaters defensive linemen from the 1970s: Carl Eller, Gary Larsen, Alan Page and Jim Marshall.

Culpepper is 20 pounds heavier than the Vikings' heaviest linebacker, Kailee Wong, and he's fast enough to get into opponents' backfields, where diminutive defensive backs bounce off him.

``He can hurt you running, he can hurt you throwing and he can hurt you hitting you,'' teammate Tyrone Carter said.

Culpepper might be the heaviest quarterback in NFL history.

The weight on his shoulders, though, was lifted considerably last week with his solid debut as the Vikings' new starter.

Culpepper kept the chains moving on five possessions against New Orleans, two of which ended in touchdowns. He threw for 140 yards, ran for three first downs and 29 yards and wasn't sacked.

Granted, it was only 1 1/2 quarters and it was just the Saints, but it represented a significant improvement over his only extended action as a rookie last year, when he was sacked five times in a preseason game.

As a third-stringer behind Randall Cunningham and Jeff George, he took just six snaps in the regular season and never threw a pass.

``It was good to get that out of the way, to start proving to people why it was a good move for Dennis Green to draft me,'' Culpepper said.

More important than winning over his many detractors was gaining the trust of his teammates and coaches, he said.

``That's the main thing I was concerned with,'' he said.

Worry no more.

``Daunte played with a lot more poise than I expected,'' running back Robert Smith said. ``I think he's ready to take over the reins.''

Coach Dennis Green, who bypassed Jevon Kearse to take Culpepper in last year's draft, also seemed relieved after the debut of his eighth starting quarterback in nine seasons.

``Daunte had a solid performance,'' Green said. ``When he had a chance to throw, he threw, and he ran when people were double-covered. A lot of you forget how much Daunte has played. He was an All-American quarterback in college, and last year was the only time in his life when he hasn't played.''

Culpepper, who starred at Central Florida, gave himself a passing grade in his first action with the first-team offense.

``There are still going to be people doubting,'' he said, ``but hopefully by the end of this year there won't be any.''

Culpepper is the last member of last year's heralded quarterback class that included Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, Cade McNown, Akili Smith and Shaun King to take over an offense.

He spent his summer in Florida working out with Randy Moss and Cris Carter, both of whom lobbied unsuccessfully for George's return last winter.

``I got a chance to see what kind of people they are and they could see the type of person that I am,'' Culpepper said. ``That's what is going to keep this team together is all the personalities not clashing.''

Culpepper is getting a late start, but he considers himself fortunate because he's the only member of that quarterback class of '99 who has a supporting cast like Carter, Moss and Smith.

``That takes a big load off me,'' Culpepper said.