Nov. 3, 2008
ORLANDO, Fla. - With the Detroit Lions signing Daunte Culpepper to a two-year contract on Saturday, UCF now has a Conference USA-leading 14 of its alumni in the National Football League and, impressively, four of them with the Detroit Lions. Culpepper joins Travis Fisher, Michael Gaines and Kevin Smith in Detroit.
With Culpepper's signing, UCF becomes one of just 11 colleges in the nation with at least four alumni on a single NFL franchise, joining a very impressive list of schools that includes Auburn, Colorado State, Florida, Louisville, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Texas.
Culpepper had announced his retirement from the league in September but the Lions had a need for a quarterback after recently having to place starter Jon Kitna on injured reserve. A first team All-American at UCF in 1998, Culpepper will embark on his 10th season with the NFL, most of which were spent with the Minnesota Vikings (1999-2005). Culpepper played for the Miami Dolphins in 2006 and the Oakland Raiders last fall. The Ocala native is a three-time Pro Bowl selection.
Rookie Kevin Smith has started four games at tailback for Detroit this year and has 305 rushing yards on 70 carries with four touchdowns. He has also caught 24 passes out of the backfield for 162 yards. The 24 receptions rank second on the team behind only wide receiver Calvin Johnson's 37. Michael Gaines, in his fifth NFL season and first for Detroit, has played in all eight games with five starts at tight end in 2008. He has 15 catches for 153 yards on the season. A seven-year NFL veteran in his second year with Detroit, Fisher has started four games for the Lions at corner back this season.
UCF's 14 alumni in the NFL are comfortably the tops in Conference USA. Southern Miss is second with 11 followed by Houston's nine.
Smith was one of three Knights drafted in 2008, joining Josh Sitton (Green Bay) and Mike Merritt (Kansas City). The three tied for the most of any team in the state of Florida last year with Florida State and Miami which also had three draftees each. Florida and South Florida both had two.
UCF's NFL success hasn't been limited to Detroit this year, however. Another city where former Knights have been making a mark is Denver where two UCF alums (Brandon Marshall and Matt Prater) have all ready this year been named the AFC's Offensive Player of the Week and Special Teams Player of the Week, respectively, for the first-place Broncos.
The Knights expect to have several players drafted in 2009 and you can see them play their penultimate home game for UCF on Saturday when UCF plays host to Southern Miss for Homecoming at 3:30 p.m. Tickets for the clash with the Golden Eagles are still available, including a $20 ticket courtesy of SunTrust Banks. To order your tickets today, call TicketMaster at (407) 839-3900 or visit TicketMaster.com.