He is the son of late NFL linebacker Brad Van Pelt.
Van Pelt attended San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara, California, where he played quarterback and safety. There he earned accolades with spots on PrepStar's All-Western and SuperPrep's All-Far West Region Teams and being named a first-team all-state selection as an athlete. In 1998, during his senior season, he completed 89-of-155 passes (.574) for 1,265 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed for 1,294 yards and 24 TDs; on defense, he had 41 tackles and three interceptions.
Van Pelt originally joined the college program where his father was an All-American, Michigan State. The head coach at the time was Nick Saban, who departed after Van Pelt's first season to coach LSU. However, after he was pressured to convert from quarterback to defensive back, he opted to transfer to Colorado State where he was given the opportunity to play quarterback. At Colorado State he managed to throw for nearly 3,000 yards and over 60% completion rate his senior year, and came within 100 yards in passing and rushing of becoming the first collegiate quarterback to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. In 2005 Vince Young passed for 3,036 yards and rushed for 1,050.
NFL scouts criticized Van Pelt for his "run first, then throw" mentality while playing quarterback for Colorado State. He was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the seventh round of the 2004 NFL Draft, where he spent the next two years as a backup. In the 2006 NFL Draft, the Broncos drafted Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler. In training camp, Cutler moved ahead of Van Pelt on the depth chart making Van Pelt the third-string quarterback, behind Jake Plummer and Cutler. He was released by the Denver Broncos on September 2, 2006. His attempt to make the team was chronicled in Stefan Fatsis's book A Few Seconds of Panic.
Van Pelt was then signed by the Houston Texans on November 27, 2006, to be their third-string quarterback, brought in by his former coach in Denver, Gary Kubiak. He was released by the Texans on August 27, 2007.
It was announced on March 8, 2009, that Van Pelt would attempt a comeback as a safety with the Broncos, though he failed to make the roster.
In late 2009, it was announced that Van Pelt had signed with the Bergamo Lions of Italy for their 2010 Italian and Eurobowl campaigns. He would play quarterback and assist on defense as a safety.
At the end of the Italian season in July 2010 he signed to play for the Leicester Falcons in the BAFA Community Leagues Division 1, leading the team to the Division 1 playoffs.
After retiring from football, Van Pelt moved to Santa Barbara, California, and occasionally provides football commentary for Sky Sports.