TAMPA – Plant tight end/defensive end Judge Culpepper wants to get out from under his father’s shadow and be his own man. The rising junior is well on his way.
Culpepper, who stands out from the crowd at 6’5″, 245 lbs. says he desires to make a name for himself. His father Brad Culpepper played nine seasons in the NFL at defensive end including six for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I compare myself to him because he did an amazing job and did everything right,” Judge said.
On top of his father’s fame and vast football knowledge, Judge has his brother Rex Culpepper (2016 Plant graduate and Syracuse commit) to lean off of.
“It’s great. Their great sources to tap into and are very helpful. My dad knows so much and I talk to him about everything. I take a step back and talk to my brother and he’s more down to earth. They are great guys.”
Last season Culpepper earned his first full year of varsity football as a sophomore. He played quarterback, running back, tight end and defensive end in 10 games totaling 218 yards on offense and two touchdowns. Culpepper had 20 tackles and two sacks on defense.
“It was great. We have a great team and a great group of guys. We are all encouraging each other to get better and it’s fun to be a part of.”
After playing the last four games of his freshman season exclusively at defensive end, Culpepper earned the starting tight end job simply because the team valued his abilities there. He mixed in at defensive end as well.
In the 2014 region semifinal against Orlando Dr. Phillips, he saw the field and said the game was eye opening.
“Obviously, there were nerves. Lining up against a dude that is 6’8″, 300 lbs., I was like ‘here we go’, but it was great. It really gave me a lot of confidence. I had a couple tackles and got my feet wet so it was nice.”
Culpepper says he gained his confidence last season right out of the gates.
“Our first game against Venice we saw a lot of success early and I was like ‘okay I can do this, this isn’t rocket science, this is football.’ Let’s go play.”
That poise is obvious when he steps onto the field and right now big-time college programs are taking notice. Culpepper already has 31 offers with the latest coming from South Carolina on May 17. The list includes the likes of Alabama, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, LSU, Florida, Louisville, USC, Michigan, Nebraska, USF, Syracuse, Purdue, Tennessee and Cincinnati.
“I’m not thinking about the offers because I have two more years. I’m more worried about Plant. However, there are a lot of great schools and I like a good amount of them.”
He plans on taking visits this summer but wants to keep them low key.
Culpepper says his biggest strengths are his speed, ability to beat safeties and block up front. He wants to continue to get quicker and stronger as a defensive lineman.
Behind starting quarterback Dane Frantzen and backup Kyle Trina, Culpepper will serve as an option there, but his focus will be at tight end and defensive end where he’ll be a full-time starter. He will also mix in wingback formations offensively.
“I think on offense we have some dudes. We aren’t as big as we usually are upfront, but skill wise we have a lot of weapons. Our quarterback is good and he is starting for his second year. Our defense we have a lot of skill players. So we should be pretty solid.”
One of Culpeppers’ friends on the team is the versatile and crafty Frantzen.
“Dane is awesome. He really puts everything into it and goes the extra mile. He is a great guy.”
His favorite part of football? “Tackling the quarterback. There’s no better feeling than getting a sack.”
Culpepper says he doesn’t have one certain area of focus as a defensive end, he simply wants to be good at all of it.
“We run a lot of different things on defense and the more you can do the better. My dad was really good in the NFL, so he’s really helped me. He’s worked with me all off-season at shedding blocks and tackling.”
His father is his role model, someone who he says helps him a ton with the mental aspect of the game.
“He’s put in so much time and so much effort. He’s done so much for me. I try to model myself after him because he’s been a great guy and I love him to death.”
Much like his brother Rex, Judge started his football life at quarterback. It wasn’t until his 2014 JV season ended and he earned the call to varsity that he moved to a different position with his brother entrenched as the starter.
“There was no way I could help out the team playing backup to my brother. Last year, I played a little quarterback but I can help my team in so many ways. “
Culpepper calls 13th-year Plant head coach Robert Weiner a genius. The highly successful coach Weiner has led the Panthers to four state championships (2006, 2008, 2009, 2011). Plant finished 9-3 last season falling in the 7A region semifinal to Lakeland.
“He’s an unbelievably smart guy and an amazing coach. He loves his players and wants the best for us. He expects us to put in the work. He puts his life on the line for us and we have to do the same. It’s great.”
Playing at a historic and fun environment like Plant is something Culpepper truly loves.
“The great thing about Plant is that the field and the stands are right next to each other. There is no track blocking it on the home side. It gets loud and it gets crazy with 5,000 plus fans there sometimes.”
Even though Culpepper has just one full varsity season under his belt, he’s only getting stronger, faster and more knowledgeable with each and every snap. In the spring jamboree against Robinson and Jefferson, he stuck out like a sore thumb.
Focusing in at tight end and defensive end, Judge Culpepper is in for a huge 2016 season. The rising junior is going to earn many more offers and it is well deserved. Look for him to the next step this year.
Favorite players to watch – Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt, Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Playlist before games – Eminem, Dr. Dre
Favorite movies – Blazing Saddles, The Other Guys
Favorite TV shows – The Walking Dead, Friday Night Lights
Fun fact about you that nobody knows – “I love to read. The Percy Jackson series is my favorite.”
Nickname from teammates or friends – “The Judgernaut”
Game film: Culpepper’s Hudl tape
— Judge Culpepper (@JudgeCulpepper) March 25, 2016
Jake Perper is the scout for Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.
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