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August 8, 2012In the late 1990s, Daunte Culpepper put UCF football on the map.
A quarterback who was built like a tight end, Culpepper broke virtually every school record and ended his career by setting the NCAA record for single-season completion percentage.
The Ocala native brought considerable national and local attention to the young program which had elevated to Division I-A during his sophomore year in 1996.
In Culpepper's senior season of 1998, the Citrus Bowl was filled with fans young and old wearing the first widely-available UCF replica jersey - No. 8.
For the first time since then, No. 8 has been issued to another player: Storm Johnson.
Last year when he transferred in from Miami, the running back put in the request and later realized it held some significance.
"I feel very honored to wear it," he said. "I've thought a little about it since it was given to me. People told me it hadn't been worn since Daunte Culpepper. It's an honor."
Johnson has never met Culpepper, who was UCF's first and only first-round NFL draft pick, but said he's very aware of his accomplishments.
"I watch NFL Network all the time, so I've seen what he did with the Vikings," Johnson said.
Culpepper returned to campus in 2010 for a ceremony where his jersey along with three others were recognized with permanent banners inside Bright House Networks Stadium.
Though some were under the impression the number was retired during the 1999 team banquet, UCF officials have said No. 8 was simply not issued. The school recently published a written policy with criteria for commemorating jerseys, which does not include permanently retiring numbers.
Storm anxious for the season to arrive
Storm Johnson's last appearance in a college football game came on Dec. 30, 2010 in El Paso, Tex., when he carried the ball two times for 20 yards in Miami's 33-17 Sun Bowl loss to Notre Dame.
The sophomore took a redshirt year at UCF in 2011 while satisfying NCAA transfer rules.
Needless to say, Johnson can't wait for Aug. 30 to arrive.
"It's been a long time coming," Johnson said. "When I'm by myself I start to think about the season and just how excited I am to be a part of this UCF team. I'm excited for the season to kick off."
Plummer says turnovers are the goal
Sophomore Terrance Plummer, now in a starting role at middle linebacker, says a big stressing point this camp is forcing turnovers. While the Knights put up solid numbers defensively last year, they had a negative turnover rate (-3) for the first time since 2006.
"We need more takeaways," Plummer said. "Takeaways get the offense on the field more. We're trying to get the ball in their hands and get us off the field. We need more takeovers. And finishing. We need to finish drives. During goal line (on Monday) we made stops on the first two downs, but you've got to make the final one. Threes are better than sixes."
UCF has an entirely new defensive staff this year, including linebackers coach Tyson Summers who came in from UAB.
"He brings intensity," Plummer said. "He's so intense. He teaches us so well in the meeting room that when we get to the field it's like clockwork."
Plummer already has one of the more recognizable haircuits on the team and by the end of the season he hopes to really stand out in a crowd.
"I've got a little 'fro hawk going right now," he said. "I like it and I've got to keep it going. My goal for my hair is that I'm going to keep growing it until we lose. I don't plan on losing. I want it way out there."