‘Survivor’ Fans Couldn’t Stand a Contestant Who Used to Play In the NFL

For 20 years now, CBS’s Survivor has entertained its audiences and helped revolutionize the reality television genre into what it is today. Aside from the everyday people who patronize the show’s exotic location, there are several memorable people from television, film, sports, and entertainment. Among the most notable of these unforgettable Survivors, however, former defensive end Brad Culpepper. 

Hali Ford, Sierra Dawn-Thomas, Debbie Wanner, Tai Trang and Brad Culpepper on 'Survivor: Gamechangers'
Hali Ford, Sierra Dawn-Thomas, Debbie Wanner, Tai Trang and Brad Culpepper on Survivor: Gamechangers | Jeffrey Neira/CBS via Getty Images

Surviving the elements

Survivor premiered in 2000 and immediately joined the cultural lexicon. Based on the Swedish series Expedition Robinson, the American show struck a note with the American audience right away. What began as a CBS show that was about surviving the elements and outlasting opponents evolved over the years into a strategic competition more like chess.

Vying for the million-dollar prize, contestants on Survivor come in all shapes and sizes. What they do on the island helps dictate whether they can earn the honor of Sole Survivor and take home the million-dollar prize. Some play it nice and ride the good vibes to the monetary award, while others choose to play as villains, throw people under the bus, and pray that the jury will appreciate their cutthroat attitude.

The show has been on the air twice a year, 40 seasons, since its inception. Jeff Probst, who previously hosted VH1’s Rock ‘n Roll Jeopardy, has served as the host throughout the show, as well as a producer. While the show has seen several changes over 20 years, going from a documentary-style program to something more unabashedly game show-like, the fascinating castaways are still a significant draw. Brad Culpepper is one of the most memorable examples of this. 

Who is Brad Culpepper? 

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Culpepper was never a household name in the NFL, but he still enjoyed a long career as a defensive tackle. Starting with the Minnesota Vikings after leaving Florida, Culpepper became a reliable journeyman in the NFL. He went in and out of starting roles and bench roles throughout his career, amassing 316 combined tackles and 207 solo tackles throughout his career. 

The bulk of Culpepper’s career was spent in Tampa Bay, where he defended the Buccaneers for five years, starting most of the games in the process. By 2000, Culpepper was 31 years old and done with football. He now works as a trial lawyer, but modern television watchers probably best know him as a two-time Survivor contestant. 

A life of evil

Survivor’s strategies are in the eye of the beholders. Some use their brains to make up for the lack of physical gifts to get far in the game, while others do fine with the physical aspect and don’t do much strategically. He first appeared on Blood vs. Water, the 27th season, which saw former contestants, like Culpepper’s wife, Monica, to compete again with loved ones on the island. He didn’t last long, coming in 15th place out 20 possible spots. His brash leadership didn’t sit well with tribemates. 

However, when Culpepper returned, he tried to play a more collaborative game with members of his first season by his side. Culpepper’s alliance eventually was blindsided by Sarah Lacina, and Culpepper was left to fend for himself. Thanks to some good luck at a late tribal council, Culpepper made it to the end, where he ran to Lacina.

Culpepper was brash, quick, and frustrating to a lot of fans. One look at Twitter when his seasons aired shows that people were turned off by his jock behavior and penchant for talking bigger than his game permitted. However, this personality made Culpepper a memorable contestant to resonate with fans years after his last appearance on the show.