Culpepper Keeping Things In Perspective

February 16, 2017

The offseason is often a time for prospects to take a closer look at recruiting and with National Signing Day for the Class of 2017 having passed two weeks ago, it’s definitely a time for colleges to start taking an even closer look at 2018 prospects, but the calendar hasn’t changed Judge Culpepper’s focus at all.

“I don’t think too much about it,” the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder from Tampa said of the fact that his class is now the center of the recruiting world.

“I really haven’t given it that much thought. I’m really just worried about our team. We just had a huge run to the state championship and we’re in workouts right now. I’m trying to think of good ways to motivate my guys.”

Culpepper’s Plant High School squad lost to St. Thomas Aquinas in that state championship game in December, ruining the Panthers’ chance at a perfect 14-0 season.

“We’ve got to put in a lot of work,” said Culpepper. “Last year’s team was good, but they were a family. We need to cultivate that sense of family. We need to put in a lot of work in the weight room and on the field. I think it’s doable though.”

He knows he’ll be looked to for leadership even more next season, which he welcomes.

“I love it,” Culpepper said. “I feel like it’s great. It’s my time to put the team first and really take a lot of the guys who are inexperienced under my wing and teach them something good.”

But with more than 30 offers from some of the top programs across the country, Culpepper does have to pay some attention to recruiting as well.

One of those offers came from Notre Dame back in June.

“It was huge,” Culpepper said of the Irish offer. “My dad almost went to Notre Dame. That place is awesome. I can’t wait to get up there. We’re trying to figure out a time at some point to get up to a lot of these schools that have offered and Notre Dame is definitely one of the ones I really want to check out.”

Culpepper’s dad, Brad, played for Florida while his brother, Rex, is a quarterback at Syracuse. It doesn’t sound like those ties will figure into his decision much, though.

“My parents and my brother are always telling me to go to the place that’s best for you,” he said. “Syracuse was best for my brother, Florida was best for my dad, but right now, we’re just trying to find out what’s best for me. I’m not saying one of those schools couldn’t be what’s best for me. I’m just trying to figure it out for myself.”

Notre Dame is certainly one school that has his attention.

“Obviously, there’s this huge football tradition,” Culpepper said. “They’ve got unbelievable academics there. My brother took a trip out there when he was being recruited. He said it was really something I should see and that it was an awesome experience. They had a blast.”

He’s looking forward to seeing it himself.

“Obviously, the facilities,” he said. “It’ll be nice to meet the coaches in person, that’s going to be really cool. Just things like that, the campus and check out the vibe I get.”

Culpepper feels honored and blessed to have offers from schools like Alabama, Florida, LSU, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Pitt, Tennessee and USC among several others.

“It’s very humbling,” he said. “It’s really amazing and honestly, this whole recruiting process has been a great experience, but it’s kind of secondary to a lot of the stuff that goes on in high school. I really want to get the most out of my team and I really want to get back to the state championship.”

Many schools are looking at him as a tight end, but Culpepper says Notre Dame is recruiting him as a defensive end.

“I love them both,” he said. “I’ll play whatever they need me to play, I don’t really care.

“A lot of people said my film looks very physical. They like my size and my speed and what I bring to the table as far as that goes. My coach will tell them about my work ethic and my leadership abilities. That usually just seals the deal.”

Culpepper has about 10 schools with some strong mutual interest right now and will focus on trying to get those places in the coming months.

His priorities are clear when it comes to choosing a school in the end.

“Honestly, the football comes secondary to the academics. If it has a family atmosphere, good academics, good football obviously and coaches I can relate to, who are cool.”

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