As we continue to get closer and closer to the 2011 NFL season, I felt that what better time than now to reach out to a current player whom I already had the privilege of working with this past January.
Daunte Culpepper: Three-time Pro Bowl selection, holder of the NFL record for most total yardage ever produced in a single season (5,123 yards in 2004), and an available free agent this offseason for NFL teams that may be interested in the services of an accomplished veteran quarterback.
I was anxious to get his thoughts about this upcoming season: his status as a current free agent, how he feels about Christian Ponder and the Minnesota Vikings, and what we can expect from him in 2011.
After speaking with Daunte via email, he was once again happy to share his thoughts on the topics.
Ryan: I'd like to start off on a positive note Daunte. Last we spoke, your wife had just given birth to your sixth child.
How is your family and how have you been holding up to the ever-evolving challenges of fatherhood?
Daunte: Our new son was born on Super Bowl Sunday and he has gotten right in step with our busy family. Now that we have three boys and three girls, things have evened out around the Culpepper household.
Ryan: As we all know, the current lockout situation has cast something of a cloud over the 2011 NFL season.
What will be your availability in respects to free agency this year and do you have any specific destinations in mind?
Daunte: My first hope is that the owners and the players come to a mediated agreement that works for both sides so that the game will be back in the hands of players on the field rather than lawyers in the courtroom.
As far as destinations, I am looking for a team that wants a veteran guy who loves the game and is willing to do whatever is needed to help the team win.
Ryan: During our last interview, I talked about how impressed I was with what you were able to do on the football field in the UFL last season.
I'd go as far as to argue that there are few quarterbacks active today who possess the combination of experience and athleticism that you do.
For the NFL owners and General Managers who may consider signing you this season, what would you like for them to know about what you can offer their football teams in 2011?
Daunte: I have heard that there are several NFL teams that are looking for a veteran quarterback to come in and compete or to be a short term answer while they prepare their young quarterbacks of the future.
I have some unfinished business in the NFL, so if a team is looking for a game ready quarterback, I am willing to listen. I just would like to get in the mix as soon as free agency begins so that I can have the best chance to compete.
Hopefully the labor situation will be resolved soon so that we can all get back to football.
Ryan: It was not long ago that you shared a spot on the roster with the Detroit Lions’ number-one overall draft selection, Matthew Stafford; who has continued to show promising signs of growth at the position.
Having already had experience in helping to prepare young quarterbacks, how would you feel about having the opportunity to work with Christian Ponder in Minnesota?
Daunte: I will always have a warm spot in my heart for cold Minnesota. It was an amazing experience last year to be selected as one of the 50 greatest Viking players and to be back amongst the Viking fans.
If I can help their young franchise quarterback transition to the level of their expectations, I would be honored. My feeling is that if there is any team that would benefit from having a veteran guy that can show a younger guy how to prepare and play at the NFL level, then I am interested.
Coach Dennis Green always taught us that if you know your role and play that role well, then the team can be successful. I am looking to fill the role of playing or competing to play in the present which will ultimately help prepare a young guy for the future.
That is what worked for me when I spent a full year watching and learning behind a couple of vets when I was drafted.
Ryan: Were there any quarterbacks that you looked up to or tried to emulate growing up?
Daunte: Growing up in Florida, I watched Dan Marino slice through defenses every Sunday.
I decided in high school that I would wear his signature forearm sweat band and I also had my sights set on accomplishing some of his on the field feats. Breaking his combined yardage record in 2004 was the beginning of meeting those goals.
Ryan: You’ve already been a multiple-time Pro Bowl selection, led the NFL in passing, broken the all-time single-season combined yardage record (which still stands), played in and won playoff games, and graced the covers of both Madden and Sports Illustrated.
Some might say that you’ve done it all, but I continue to get the vibe that there’s something more that continues to drive you.
Explain to me what you mean when you say that you have “unfinished business” in the NFL, and why that passion and determination to succeed is something that NFL owners and general managers should be on the lookout for as we loom closer and closer to Free Agency?
Daunte: I feel like through extenuating circumstances my opportunity to meet my own goals and expectations in the NFL were cut short. At 34, I am in great physical and mental shape and I expect with the right fit, I will be a successful quarterback in the league for several more seasons.
Hopefully the landscape in the NFL will have changed after this labor situation is resolved, and there will be a role for a quarterback with my resume to take care of some unfinished business.
After having concluded my second interview with Daunte, I couldn’t help but be even more enthused than I was after working with him this past January.
Seeing what he was able to do on the football field in the UFL last season sparked my interest in respects to what he might be able to do this year.
But it is his enthusiasm, positive energy, and true love for the sport of professional football that makes me even more excited about what he might be able to do in the NFL this year if given the opportunity.
I’d like to personally thank Daunte for being kind enough to share his time with me once again. As always, it was a true pleasure.
Ryan Michael is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report: Any questions, comments, or professional inquiries can be directed to his email at firstname.lastname@example.org.