"As has been previously reported, I will forego my final year of football eligibility and enter the 2002 NFL draft," Peppers said. "In the past few days, I have also contemplated my immediate future and have decided not to play basketball this season. For the most part, my decision is based upon the difficult reality of balancing academics, basketball and preparing for the NFL draft simultaneously."
A 6-foot-6, 285-pound junior, Peppers started the last three years after redshirting as a freshman. A unanimous All-America selection in 2001, Peppers became the first Tar Heel to win a major college football award when he won the Lombardi Trophy as the nation's top lineman.
He also won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation's top defensive player and was named the 2001 Chevrolet Defensive Player of the Year. Beginning next season, Peppers' No. 49 jersey will hang from the Kenan Stadium facade.
"Julius was a great leader for us this season, and I appreciate everything he did for the team and the University," said head football coach John Bunting. "I think his best playing days are ahead of him, and he has the potential to be an NFL star."
Peppers finished the 2001 season with 63 tackles, including 19 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks, and had a team-high three interceptions. This season, he intercepted more passes than any other defensive lineman in the country.
As a sophomore in 2000, Peppers led the nation in sacks with 15 and established a school record with 24 tackles for loss. His 15 sacks were just one shy of Lawrence Taylor's school record. In 1999, Peppers was named first-team Freshman All-America by The Sporting News, leading the Tar Heels in tackles for loss and sacks.
Despite playing just three seasons, Peppers finished his career second on UNC's all-time lists for sacks with 30.5 and tackles for loss with 53.
Peppers also played in 56 games over a two-year stretch for the UNC basketball team, averaging 3.7 points and 5.7 rebounds.
"My staff and I certainly wish Julius all the best," said basketball coach Matt Doherty. "He has been a great ambassador for Carolina football and basketball. I look forward to watching him play on Sundays for many years."