Syracuse QB Rex Culpepper cancer-free; ready to return

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Rex Culpepper is back. The smile on his face said it all.

The redshirt sophomore quarterback had his first full workout with Syracuse on Friday after overcoming testicular cancer. He said he broke down and cried when he was told he was cancer-free a week ago at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida.

”When they took my IV out, it was magical,” Culpepper said. ”To finally walk out of there, I couldn’t put it into words. I can’t even describe the euphoria.”

Culpepper was diagnosed after returning from spring break. In between cancer treatments and playing with a bald head under his helmet as evidence of the struggle, he tossed a touchdown pass to end the Orange’s spring scrimmage in mid-April and was mobbed by his teammates. He then continued with 100 hours of chemotherapy treatments, alternating between Syracuse and Tampa.

”I’m appreciative of the small things in life and how we might take them for granted,” Culpepper said. ”Life’s a beautiful thing.”

Culpepper also said he doesn’t need annual follow-up scans.

Culpepper was effusive in praise of his parents, teammates, Syracuse’s coaching staff, the university, and everybody else who offered support. He said he hoped to be a role model for others facing treatment for cancer and recounted a signature moment during his ordeal.

”Somebody came up to me in Syracuse,” he said. ”They wheeled their IV pole over to me and said, `Hey, you’re that kid who threw the touchdown. I didn’t think I was going to make it through my chemo, but after seeing you play in the football game, I know I can do it.’

”I can’t even describe what I felt.”

Now the focus turns to preseason camp in August.

”I want to get in the best shape I possibly can so … I’m ready to compete,” he said.

Culpepper, who had one start last year, wasn’t on the two-deep depth chart for spring and likely won’t be at the start of summer camp. But he’ll be in the mix behind senior Eric Dungey and redshirt freshman Tommy DeVito.

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