Finding a pass rusher who intimidates and causes offensive coordinators to scheme around them isn’t a given in the NFL. There are players from the past like Reggie White and Lawrence Taylor, Hall of Famers who were basically impossible to stop. The current crop includes players like Terrell Suggs, Vonn Miller and Aaron Donald, who will be playing in the Super Bowl for the Rams this Sunday.
Today we learned that another one of these great pass rushers was calling it a career, and his name is Julius Peppers.
After being selected by the Panthers with the number two overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, Peppers rose to become one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL. He made the Pro Bowl nine times and was selected to the first team All Pro three times. Over his seventeen year career, he reached double digits in sacks ten times, including 12 in his rookie year and a career high 14.5 in 2008. His 159.5 total sacks has him sitting in fourth place on the all time sack leader list behind Hall of Famers Bruce Smith (200), Reggie White (198) and Kevin Greene (160).
In his retirement announcement posted on The Player’s Tribune today, Peppers reflected on his 17 year career and why it was the right time to hang up his cleats.
“Anybody who knows me knows I’m not big on words and I don’t like to put myself out there, so I’m just gonna get right to it.
Seventeen years is a long time to be playing this game. It’s two careers for a lot of people. I’m thankful that I have been able to play so long and still be healthy. I’m not all banged up and beaten down. I still feel good.
But as much as I would love to play forever, I know that I can’t. It’s gotta end at some point.
That point is now.
Today, I’m retiring.”
Julius Peppers has something to say… https://t.co/VKGjFmlWum
The Humble Move
Peppers went on to reveal how he didn’t want to be a football player as he preferred basketball. North Carolina born and raised, Peppers came from a humble household where hard work, not your mouth, spoke for you as an individual. So it’s no surprise that the player he watched the most was Tim Duncan.
“I just remember how it didn’t matter what happened in the game — whether he just dunked on somebody or he missed a jump shot, whether they were up by 10 or down by 10 — he was always the same guy. Always cool. Always humble.
That really resonated with me.”
When Peppers reached high school, he started playing football and was a running back. When he got to college at UNC, he played tight end, but being third on the depth chart meant he wasn’t getting any playing time. So he decided to do something he rarely did, which is speak up.
“It was my freshman year at North Carolina. I played tight end, and I was buried on the depth chart behind Alge Crumpler and Allen Mogridge. Then I saw that our team was putting defensive linemen in the first round of the draft — guys like Greg Ellis and Vonnie Holliday. So I went to my coaches and told them straight up that I wasn’t getting any reps at tight end, so I wanted to try defensive end. Because my goal was to get to the league, and the defensive linemen seemed to be getting there.
The rest is history. They switched me to defense, I led the nation in sacks as a sophomore and then got drafted No. 2 overall by the hometown Panthers.”
Peppers would go on to play in the League for 17 years with three different teams; the Panthers twice (10 years), the Bears (4 years) and the Packers (3 years). His final two seasons were back in his home state for the Panthers, where he amassed 16 total sacks in that time.
While Peppers didn’t win that Super Bowl ring, as the Panthers lost to the Patriots by a field goal in Super Bowl XXXVII in 2004, he definitely had an amazing career, one that is Hall of Fame worthy for sure.
And, most importantly, he’s happy.
“For my whole life, I’ve been so determined to be good at sports.
Now, I’m just as determined to be a great dad.
That’s my next chapter — my next challenge. And I’m fully committed to it. There won’t be no comeback. No sir. Once I’m out, I’m out.
It’s been a great 17 years.
I just hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I did.”
Congratulations on amazing career Julius.