A North Carolina football great may soon be honored for his achievements, now that his storied career has wound to a close.
In 2020, Julius Peppers, arguably the best defensive end to ever suit up for UNC, will appear for the first time on the ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame.
College Football Hall of Fame rules specify that players become eligible to appear on the ballot once their college career has been over for ten or more years and they are no longer playing at the professional level. Peppers left UNC in 2002 and announced his retirement from the NFL in February after a 17-year career, so 2020 marks his first year of eligibility.
Peppers amassed spectacular numbers at UNC between 1998 and 2001, accumulating 30.5 sacks (the second-most in school history), 167 tackles, five interceptions, five forced fumbles and three defensive touchdowns. In 2000, he also came one sack shy of tying Lawrence Taylor’s single season school record of 16.0.
In 2001, Peppers won the Lombardi Award for the best lineman in college football, the Chuck Bednarik Award for the best defensive player and was a first-team all-American selection.
If selected for induction, Peppers would join six other Tar Heels in the College Football Hall of Fame, including head coach Mack Brown, who was inducted in 2018.
"Julius Peppers is one of the greatest players to ever play the game of football at both the professional and collegiate level,” Brown said in a statement. “When he's eventually inducted, and I believe he will be, he'll be an extremely deserving addition to this prestigious list of all-time great college football players.”
Following his success at UNC, Peppers was selected second overall in the 2002 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. He had an immediate impact and was named Defensive Rookie of the Year after posting 12 sacks, five forced fumbles and a pick.
“I’m honored to have been able to have coached him,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera told WCNC Charlotte in February, shortly after Peppers’ retirement. Rivera coached the Panthers during Peppers’ last two years with the franchise.