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The Daily Tar Heel

Peppers, Forte Say No Thanks

Thanks, but no thanks.

The two North Carolina men's basketball players cited other commitments Thursday afternoon as reasons why they would be unable to participate in student government.

"I would want to do it," said Forte, who found out Thursday morning while surfing the Internet that he had earned a seat in District 18. "But with basketball and my limited schedule, I'm afraid I can't."

The same goes double for Peppers, who was elected to congressional seats in four districts and tied for a seat in another. Peppers stars at defensive end on the UNC football team when he's not banging in the paint as a power forward during basketball season.

"I don't think I have enough time for that," he said.

That Peppers earned votes in so many districts is unusual, especially considering that Congress members can serve only in the district in which they reside.

"That's probably unprecedented," said Jeremy Tuchmayer, chairman of the Board of Elections.

Peppers made an even bigger impact on the election for student body president. He was not on the ballot but still rang up 222 votes -- 214 was his unofficial total -- as a write-in candidate to finish in fifth place.

He finished with more votes than three candidates whose names were on the ballot.

"I don't know. I don't know what to say about that," he said.

Support for Peppers built after a letter ran Monday in The Daily Tar Heel pushing him for the post. Teammate Brian Bersticker received a similar boost last year after a DTH columnist started a campaign for him.

Bersticker finished third in the 2000 race with 585 votes, but he received a large amount of publicity because his supporters posted hundreds of fliers posted around campus.

Peppers had no such backing, but he might have won if he did. In addition to the votes he gained for Student Congress and student body president, Peppers also got votes in races for Carolina Athletic Association president, senior class president and Residence Hall Association president.

Students have fallen in love with the two-sport star, who has become UNC's "big man on campus" for more than one reason. In addition to his awesome talent, Peppers stands 6 feet 6 inches and 270 pounds.

"He's probably the most popular athlete here at North Carolina," Forte said. "People love Julius Peppers, and it shows right there."

People also love winners. And with the Tar Heels having run off 18 consecutive victories on the hardwood, support for them is soaring.

Forte will enjoy the praise. But he'll do so as an All-American shooting guard, not an elected official.

"It's a representation of the times right now," Forte said. "We're number one in the country, we're winning. Right now, we're pretty popular guys on campus."

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