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Titans Sports

TBT's Culpepper resigns to take job at Grambling

Posted Wednesday, February 23, 2011 by TBO.com

As he looked out at the faces of his football players gathered in the Tampa Bay Tech auditorium early Wednesday afternoon, C.C. Culpepper couldn't hold back the tears.

As many times as he had told himself beforehand he wasn't going to allow it to happen, Culpepper was overcome with emotion as he revealed he was leaving TBT as head coach to accept a job as defensive backs and special teams coach at Grambling State University.

"If it wasn't for your hard work, practicing and playing, listening to me scream and cuss, I would not have this opportunity," Culpepper told his players. "It's the young men of Tampa Bay Tech who have given me this chance."

And despite how much work he put into TBT to change it from a perennial loser to one that reached the region semifinals the past three seasons, Culpepper said coaching at Grambling was just an opportunity that doesn't come around often.

"I talk to you guys all the time about school, doing your best and taking advantage of your opportunities,'' said Culpepper, who was 32-13 in four years at TBT. "And this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, to go to a university where at one point, the winningest coach (Eddie Robinson) in all of college football coached and where (Black College Football) Hall of Fame member Doug Williams is now the coach.''

And as soon as he told his players why he was leaving, Culpepper made it clear he wanted them to stay at the school and carry on the tradition they had established.

"If you guys truly believe in what I taught you to do, if you believe in this program, you will stay here,'' Culpepper said.

And as his voice trailed off, Culpepper gathered his nerve and, raising his voice, emphatically told his players, "You will not go to Armwood. You will not go to Hillsborough or some other program. You will stay here. Do not leave this program. Do you understand me?''

And with that, his players responded, "Yes, sir.''

In an era in Hillsborough County that has seen player transfers between schools a regular occurrence -- even between semesters -- that's a tall order from Culpepper. And since TBT is a magnet school where players come from across the county, Titans athletes have options. But if you ask TBT standouts like junior running back Lamarq Caldwell, there's no doubt where he and his teammates will be next fall.

"If we want to accomplish big things as a team, we have to stay together as a team and do exactly what coach Culpepper is preaching -- we can't leave,'' Caldwell said. "This is a program he built with us and we have to stay.

"I'm pretty sure I'll be getting texts in the next few days from guys trying to get me to come to play there. But it doesn't matter. I'm staying here.''

Culpepper said he received the offer from Williams on Saturday. The two met two summers ago when Culpepper was invited to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' training camp as a volunteer assistant by head coach Raheem Morris. Culpepper said he had used Williams as a reference when applying for other college jobs, but once Williams was named coach at Grambling, he called Culpepper to make the offer.

"Coach Culpepper did a great job at Tampa Bay Tech and he was also impressive when he did an internship with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,'' Williams said. "He got some invaluable lessons over there and you could see his passion, what he wanted to do and what he loved doing. It was an easy choice for me.''

Once he had the offer, Culpepper said he had to talk to his wife, Candace, as well as his mother, before accepting. Culpepper said with their approval, he then had to decide how to tell his players, a group he calls "family.''

"I told Candace my goal was to come here, tell them and not cry. But I couldn't,'' Culpepper said. "I'm a passionate person about everything I do and this was hard. I practically lived here the past five years, four as head and one as an assistant (defensive coordinator). I've got more keys to TBT than the principal or custodian. This is all I know and this is where I made my name as a coach.''

Culpepper said he would like to see one of his two coordinators -- Jayson Roberts (defense) and Daryl Stewart (offense) -- take over his job. For now, TBT athletic director Joe Reid says Roberts is the interim head coach as the Titans continue with conditioning prior to spring drills.

"I would love to see Jayson or coach Stewart take over this program,'' Culpepper said. "Both of those guys know what it takes to coach here at Tech because this is a special school. It's very unique at TBT because every kid has to apply and be accepted to get in and you have to have someone who knows that situation and the type of kids who come here.''

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