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Friday May 20th

UNC's Julius Peppers named to College Football Hall of Fame ballot

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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.

“He really will be one of the more iconic guys to have played for us, and we’re very fortunate to have had him on this football team,” Rivera said.

Peppers’ NFL career included a few seasons with the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, but he spent the bulk of his career in Carolina, playing ten years with the Panthers. By the time he retired, Peppers had played 17 years in the NFL and had accumulated 159.5 sacks, the fourth most in league history. 

“He was a high pick and so few guys actually live up to that, and he did in every way,” New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. “What an amazing player over the course of a long period of time.”

The 2020 class of inductees to the College Football Hall of Fame will include 13 players and two coaches. The class will be unveiled in January before next year’s College Football Playoff National Championship in New Orleans.

@JakeRichardDTH

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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