For the past 17 years, Carolina Panthers great and future first ballot Hall of Famer Julius Peppers has been bringing the heat off the edge and terrorized opposing teams’ quarterbacks since he was drafted second overall in the 2002 NFL draft but has now decided to hang up his cleats.
He made the official announcement on Feb.1 via an emotional video released by the Carolina Panthers.
The native of Wilson, NC played 10 of his 17 seasons with the Panthers with stints with the Chicago Bears (2010-2013) and Green Bay Packers (2014-2016) from 2010 to 2016 before returning to his home state to finish out the last chapter of his fall of fame career.
Peppers spent the majority of his life and athletic career in the state of North Carolina. He was a dual sports athlete throughout high school and college, playing both basketball and football at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
He accumulated a plethora of accolades as he dominated the college football landscape from 1998 to 2000 as he was named several first and second All-American teams and was the recipient of numerous awards given to college football’s best players at his position and on that side of the ball overall.
One of his idols growing up was NBA and Tarheel legend Michael Jordan, which inspired him to walk on to the men’s basketball team at UNC and was even a reserve member of the 1999-2000 team that made it to the final four.
Peppers was one of the first of the new breed of defenders that were entering the league at that time with the rare and some would say a freakish combination of size, strength, speed and raw athleticism, unlike anything the league had seen before.
He has been a matchup nightmare for NFL offensive tackles and kept opposing team’s offensive coordinators up at night for nearly two decades with his game wrecking ability. At 6 ft. 7 in. and nearly 300 pounds the 39-year defensive end that rarely missed a game was still a factor and a force on his team’s defense. He totaled 16 sacks, four forced fumbles and six passes defended over the past two seasons since his return to the team that drafted him.
The most coveted ability in professional sports and especially true in football is a player’s availability. The ability to stay on the field and be depended on week in and week out to is invaluable and essential to sustainable success.
Peppers’ durability over his career has been remarkable as he has played 266 of a possible 272, which is sixth most by a defender in league history. He closed out his career on a streak of 176 consecutive games played, which was the second longest among active players, only trailing Los Angles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
His countdown to Canton where he will assuredly be inducted into the pro football hall of five years from now in his first year of eligibility has officially started. The deliberation for the final ballot of inductees will be a short one for his case as Peppers retires fourth all-time in sacks with 159.5 and tied for first with the late Hall of Famer Reggie White for most quarterbacks sacked with 77. Seems like a slam dunk, lay-up whatever analogy implies the least amount of effort because he’s stated his case with his play and cemented his legacy in the record books.