NFL Star Giveth, Then Taketh Away

Daunte Culpepper showed off his scrambling ability Wednesday in a crowded convention center ballroom.

The Minnesota Vikings quarterback presented a paralyzed high school football player two diamond necklaces worth about $75,000 during an NFL awards ceremony, but then awkwardly asked for them back after it was finished.

The apparent gift prompted a mother to cry, a father to think about buying a safe to store it and Culpepper to find a way out of the mess.

"I'll get him something else," Culpepper said sheepishly.

The confusion began at the FedEx ground and air player of the year honors, where finalists Culpepper, Peyton Manning, Shaun Alexander and Curtis Martin were on stage for the announcement.

When the master of ceremonies opened the floor for questions, Jerry Townsend spoke up from his wheelchair in the front row.

"Hey Daunte, can I get some of that ice?" he said in a low voice, referring to the two sparkling necklaces hanging around Culpepper's neck.

Culpepper jumped up, pulled them off and brought them over to Townsend, a senior defensive back at Jacksonville Episcopal High School who was paralyzed from the neck down while making a tackle in October.

Townsend spent the last four months in various hospitals and was released Wednesday just in time to go to the Super Bowl event.

After Culpepper put the necklaces around Townsend's neck, his mother started to cry. His father talked about needing to get a safe for the expensive jewelry.

Culpepper, meanwhile, went back to his seat and finished the awards ceremony (Manning won the air award, and Martin won the ground one). After it was over, Culpepper patiently answered dozens of questions while keeping a close eye on his jewelry across the room.

One of the diamond-laced necklaces was the No. 11, Culpepper's jersey number, and the other was a large pepper (for Culpepper).

"Where's that kid at? I've got to get my stuff back," Culpepper said.

Culpepper then walked over to the Townsends and asked them to write down their address so he could send them something else. Culpepper wasn't sure what it would be.

In an unrelated note, Culpepper will appear in a 60-second NFL Network commercial to air during the Super Bowl along with several other players and coaches from around the league that didn't make it to the big game. They'll be singing "Tomorrow," a tune from the musical "Annie."

By Mark Long