Syracuse QB Rex Culpepper throws first touchdown after cancer battle

Ryan Young
·2 min read

More than a year and a half since he was first diagnosed with cancer, Syracuse quarterback Rex Culpepper finally threw a touchdown pass on Saturday afternoon.

Culpepper found receiver Taj Harris sprinting down the right sidelines early in the second quarter of their matchup with Pittsburgh on Saturday and converted the 69-yard touchdown, sparking a massive celebration as they took a 10-7 lead.

Culpepper returns after cancer diagnosis

Culpepper was diagnosed with testicular cancer in March 2018, which eventually spread to lymph nodes in his abdomen. It took about 100 hours of chemotherapy and three months, but Culpepper beat the cancer and returned to the team last season — though he appeared in just two games and made a single pass attempt.

Culpepper’s memorable play, however, wasn’t enough to lift the Orange to the win.

Pittsburgh responded with a 14-play, 65-yard drive capped by a Kenny Pickett touchdown run in the second quarter to retake the lead, and then Pickett hit Jared Wayne for a 17-yard touchdown in the third to lead the Panthers to a 21-10 win.

Culpepper finished the day 4-of-9 passing for 88 yards with the single touchdown. Tommy DeVito, who started at quarterback and alternated with Culpepper throughout the game, went 9-of-15 for 32 yards and had an interception. They mustered just 51 yards on the ground as a team, too.

While they didn’t get the win, it was an emotional day for Culpepper’s entire family — including his parents, who started crying while watching the play unfold at home in Florida.

“Rex has been through hell and back,” his mom, Monica, said, via The Athletic. “To see him celebrating that touchdown with his teammates, it meant so much to us because we know the process it took to get to that moment.”

Syracuse quarterback Rex Culpepper
Rex Culpepper hit Taj Harris for a 69-yard score on Saturday afternoon, his first since beating cancer.(AP/Keith Srakocic)

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