Brandon Culpepper of Columbus, GA1
|Last Edited||4 Jan 2010|
- UTC at Auburn Brings Home Brandon Culpepper and Tobe Taylor.
The Two High School Standouts, Who Played For Hardaway and Kendrick,
Are Now Playing for Tennessee-Chattanooga
Ledger-Enquirer (Columbus, GA), Page: C1, 8 Sep 1995, By Guerry Clegg
Who knows? Had things worked out differently, Brandon Culpepper and Tobe Taylor of Tennessee-Chattanooga might have been gone head-to-head against Auburn cornerback Dell McGee when the teams meet Saturday night (7 p.m. EDT kickoff) in Auburn.
As it is, only their teams will be going head-to-head. In addition to the fact that all three players are from Columbus, they now have something else in common. All three are former offensive standouts who made the transition to defensive back.
"It's football," Taylor said, echoing the sentiments Culpepper had expressed moments earlier. "I like the sport of football. I have to produce at this spot."
McGee and Taylor were teammates at Kendrick, both wishbone halfbacks. One of their blockers was Leonard Thomas, now a starting offensive guard for Auburn. With McGee and Taylor controlling the ball, the Cherokees became the dominant team in Columbus. In 1991, the season after McGee graduated and Taylor's senior season, the Cherokees went 13-1-1 and won a share of the Georgia High School Association Class AAA state championship.
For McGee and Thomas, Jordan-Hare Stadium has become their football home. But for Culpepper and Taylor, Saturday night's game will give them an opportunity to play close to home in front of family and friends.
"I'm very excited," said Culpepper. "We have talked about it a long time, what it would be like to come home and play. We're both going to have butterflies. I believe we'll both be bringing a caravan (of fans)."
The former Kendrick players remain in contact. Taylor and Thomas talked Sunday after their season openers. McGee and Taylor talked before the season.
"We talked the day before we had to report," McGee said. "He was saying they moved him so he could get a chance at the next level, maybe the CFL (Canadian Football League). He knew the situation, him being small."
Taylor played running back and wide receiver his first three years at UTC. But at 5-foot-7, 165 pounds, Taylor would have virtually no chance of playing professionally on offense. He realizes his chances aren't substantially better as a defensive back, so playing pro ball isn't something he spends much time thinking about.
"Basically not," said Taylor, a criminal justice major. "The only thing on my mind is getting my education and getting my diploma."
The careers of Culpepper and Taylor have paralleled each other. Culpepper remembers competing against Taylor when the two were in junior high school, Culpepper at Arnold and Taylor at Rothschild. Their friendly rivalry continued through high school, when Culpepper was Hardaway's starting quarterback and Taylor a wishbone halfback on those powerful Kendrick teams. They also ran track against each other, each was aware of the other's accomplishments.
But their friendship didn't take root until they both signed scholarships with UTC. Because they are friends, Culpepper wasn't upset when Taylor won the starting cornerback position from him last week.
"Tobe is an excellent athlete," Culpepper said. "I'm not the jealous type at all. He seems to be a natural at it. I'm not upset about it at all because he's my teammate. Right now, we're sharing time at that position."
Culpepper made the switch to defense during last season. Taylor, called "the fastest player on the team" in the UTC media guide, moved to defense last spring. His career numbers were respectable -- 547 yards rushing on 98 carries (5.1 per carry), 146 yards receiving on 11 catches (13.3 per catch) and 1,280 yards on 57 kickoff returns (21.6 per return).
Both players found playing defense went against their basic instincts of football -- seeking contact rather than trying to avoid it."
I seem to be more of a finesse player," Culpepper said. "He's probably more of a hard-nosed player."
When Taylor was a senior at Kendrick, he had hopes of landing a major college scholarship. Though Georgia, Arkansas and North Carolina showed initial interest, they all backed off when he struggled with the standardized test. Ironically, he finally qualified on his final chance at the test.
But his lack of size was another obstacle. Still, he has no regrets about winding up at Tennessee-Chattanooga.
"It's a great place to get an education," he said. "I don't regret it. I'm glad I did it. Maybe if I did go to a big school, maybe it would have been different."
Culpepper Ancestry. The ancestry of Brandon Culpepper is not currently known by Culpepper Connections! If you know who his parents are, please let us know.