The family of Penn State defensive tackle Judge Culpepper has led an interesting life.
His father, Brad, was an All-American defensive tackle at Florida and played nine NFL seasons, six with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
His mother, Monica, appeared on two seasons of Survivor — one solo and one with her husband — and once won a food challenge by eating what her son called “grub worms and cow eyeballs.”
His brother, Rex, overcame testicular cancer two years ago and is a redshirt senior backup quarterback at Syracuse.
As for Judge, he is looking to make his own name in college football. After an initial redshirt season and a 2019 second year that saw him play mostly on special teams, he is attempting to carve out a spot in the rotation at the Nittany Lions’ deep defensive tackle position.
He has some good examples to follow.
“My dad is an incredibly hard worker and he puts 100 percent effort into everything that he’s invested in,” the 6-foot-4, 294-pound Culpepper said Tuesday in a Zoom conference call with reporters. “Growing up and watching that, it’s been really like he has kind of set the path for me and the path that I want to follow. That has been huge.
“My brother, I would say he’s one of my biggest influences as well. He went through cancer and he went through ACL surgery and all that adversity and he came out stronger.
“My mom, she’s just a badass. She might be tougher than my dad. My parents are really, really just badass individuals and I strive every day to try to put that in my life.”
During the time he spent at home in Tampa during the quarantine, Culpepper received valuable advice about defensive tackle from his father, who he said had been more hands-on that he was when Judge was playing tight end and defensive end in high school.
“He’s been great,” he said. “We used to go to the field all the time and work bags and work hand things and just talk through stuff. He used to tell me stories about when he was playing and what he did, what his coaches taught him and how much defensive line play has changed over the past 20 years since he’s played.
“It has been really cool. I’ve really taken a lot of that stuff that he’s been talking about and tried to implement it in my game. I really appreciate him not taking a hands-off mentality and really trying to work me into a defensive tackle.”
Culpepper lifted weights every day with his brother. They would grill together after their workouts, plenty of red meat, chicken, and fish, so he could keep his “good weight.”
“I’ve been focusing on getting stronger and getting faster,” he said. “We really got after it, so I feel like I put a really good body of work in our off-season, in this weird little time that we had. I feel like I’ve come out a lot bigger and a lot more ready.
“I absolutely feel like that I’ve worked really, really, really hard these last three months and I think that I’m ready. In my own mind, to myself, I feel like I’m ready to take on a bigger role on this team. I’m really excited that all the work I’ve put in will get to pay off.”
Penn State rotated four defensive tackles last season, with one of them, Robert Windsor, having been drafted in the sixth round by the Indianapolis Colts. Now that longtime defensive line coach Sean Spencer has moved on to the New York Giants, it remains to be seen how his successor, John Scott Jr., will utilize his tackles.
Culpepper calls Scott “a really good guy and a really good coach and I think we’re all really excited about him.”
Culpepper was among the first wave of players who reported back to campus last month for voluntary workouts. He said that not much has changed with the work but that the training staff really has “gone the extra mile to make sure that we’re safe.”
The focus now is on football, but there still were some good times in Tampa, especially when the Culpeppers welcomed a new next-door neighbor, Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.