UCF icon Daunte Culpepper speaks to football team

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Legendary UCF quarterback Daunte Culpepper spoke to Gus Malzahn’s football team Monday night.

Culpepper’s message to the Knights was one about playing together as one complete unit similar to his old UCF teams back in the day, wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe said.

“I feel like a lot of teams they’ve got some players that just want to do individual stuff,” O’Keefe said. “As coach Gus said on Day 1 of camp, the team that can [come together] is the team that comes out on top.”

Culpepper’s appearance in front of the Knights follows his time spent at a summer event for Mission Control, a collective that provides name, image and likeness opportunities for UCF athletes.

Previously, Culpeper had been away from the program for some time, at least publicly.

“I’ve been back here a lot more than people think, just never in front of the cameras,” Culpepper said in June at the event. “I usually get to one game a year. I never get interviewed because I’m not on the sidelines. I’ll be here and I’ll probably be here more than I have.”

Regardless of what led to the sudden change in his publicly-known appearances at UCF, the Knights were appreciative of the opportunity to hear from one of the program’s greatest to throw the football.

“He shared a little bit of his life story,” defensive end Josh Celiscar said. “It was him working hard. He said, ‘I wasn’t the best at everything, I didn’t have all of the talent, but I worked harder than everybody else.’

“I feel like I’m the same way and I can relate to that,” Celiscar added. “All of his accolades, he was a great quarterback.”

At UCF, Culpepper finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1998 and became the program’s first player selected in the first round of the NFL draft when he was taken by Minnesota with the No. 11 pick.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Culpepper spent the first 7 years of his career with the Vikings playing alongside the likes of NFL greats Randy Moss and Cris Carter.

“I didn’t know he had Randy Moss,” O’Keefe said. “It was cool. Daunte Culpepper was good.”

The message from Culpepper resonated with the Knights and Malzahn, according to O’Keefe.

“We’re a brotherhood, for sure,” O’Keefe said. “Coach Gus is team-orientated. Knowing each other on a deeper level than just football is going to help us play for each other even more.”

Email Jason Beede at jbeede@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on Twitter at @therealBeede.