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Julius Peppers Announces Retirement

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Julius Peppers should be 'no-brainer' as first-ballot Hall of Famer


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Next stop for Julius Peppers, the Pro Football of Fame. First ballot. Unanimous.

It will be an injustice if the Carolina Panthers defensive end, who announced on Friday his retirement after 17 NFL seasons, doesn't get into the football shrine in Canton, Ohio, on the first vote when he becomes eligible in five years.

The 39-year-old described as a "freak of nature" from the day he entered the NFL as the No. 2 overall pick in 2002 until his final snap on Dec. 30 deserves it as much as anyone who has played the game for what he did on and off the field.


The player, who has exuded class throughout his 17-year career, finished fourth on the NFL's all-time sack list with 159.5 and deserves top HOF consideration.

"If he's not a first-ballot Hall of Famer it's because he was never out in the media and never made himself a media-savvy person," said former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, who went to Super Bowl XXXVIII after the 2003 season with Peppers.

"[Tackle] Willie Roaf was the best football player I ever played with. The next two were Steve Smith and Julius Peppers. Steve Smith and Julius are without question first ballot. Willie Roaf was second, and you know why? Because he was quiet. He was an introvert. And he played on two small-market teams, the Saints and the Chiefs."

Peppers was the biggest thing to hit the small market of Charlotte until quarterback Cam Newton became the top pick of the 2011 draft.

And not just because Peppers was freakish in size at 6-foot-7 and 290 pounds.

He was big because he grew up a multi-sport star in Bailey, North Carolina, where he played running back and defensive line in football and power forward in basketball.

He was big because he went to the University of North Carolina, where he not only starred in football but helped the Tar Heels reach the Final Four in basketball. He still is the only person to play in both a Final Four and Super Bowl.

Peppers was big because his football career continued in his home state with the Panthers, who were criticized by some for drafting him over a quarterback.

He didn't play a down for a team outside his home state until 2010, when he went to the Chicago Bears when a new deal couldn't be reached with the Panthers.

"What was on his shoulders when he came to Carolina, what he did during his rookie year to set the tone for the rest of his career, is tremendous," former Panthers defensive end Mike Rucker said.

Peppers had 12 sacks as a rookie. Only twice during his career, 2007 (2.5) and this past season (5), did he fail to get at least seven sacks in a season.

He was beyond consistent.

His 159.5 sacks trail only Bruce Smith (200), Reggie White (198) and Kevin Greene (160). He sacked 77 different quarterbacks, tied with Hall of Famer White for the most since sacks became official in 1982.

But Peppers was more than just a sack specialist. He had 81 pass deflections and 11 interceptions, making him the only player in NFL history to have at least 150 sacks and 10 picks.

Peppers also blocked a combined 13 field goals/PATs, the second most since the statistic began being tracked in 2000.

His impact began in his first game when he deflected a pass against the Ravens that was picked off by linebacker Dan Morgan. In his second game, Peppers had three sacks and forced a fumble.

"I vividly remember in 2002, I'm a rookie with the Saints, and a majority of what we talked about was game-planning for Julius Peppers," Delhomme said. "You had to know where he was at all times. He was a freak of nature. And getting to Carolina and seeing him in person ... just going against him in practice, trying to throw a screen pass over him. He could stop, reach up with his left hand and get a hand on the ball. Just the freaky plays he made, he made it look natural."

Peppers wasn't a rah-rah type player who made a sideshow of celebrating big plays. He talked with a soft voice and did his best to avoid interviews simply because he preferred letting his play speak for itself.

Only in his return to Carolina in 2017 did he somewhat break out of his shell, becoming more outspoken as a locker room leader and becoming more visible in the community. His work this past season to help those impacted by Hurricane Florence in North and South Carolina earned him a nomination for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award that will be presented on Saturday in Atlanta.

But when it was time to say goodbye to football, Peppers, in typical fashion, did it in a video with no plan to make a formal statement or hold a news conference.

"I wouldn't change a thing about this journey," Peppers said in his video. "It was the best teacher I've ever had and was everything I could've hoped for. The tough times never lasted and the tough people inspired me to be better and give more. I hope I did the same."

Peppers told ESPN.com in November that he hopes to be remembered more for what he did off the field than on it.

"You ask somebody right now who are the top two or three sack persons and they couldn't tell you," he said with his infectious smile. "You're a professional and you want to perform and you want to achieve those goals. But being out with the people and giving back to the community, it's going to be more impactful and long lasting."

Panthers team owner David Tepper recently said he wanted to expand Carolina's Hall of Honor, which has only one player -- linebacker Sam Mills. Peppers would make for a solid No. 2 there, because he without a doubt will become the first player who was drafted by Carolina to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"He's one of the best to ever wear a Carolina uniform," Tepper said. "He carries himself with dignity, integrity and class, and will always be a Panther."

John Fox, Carolina's head coach when Peppers was drafted, laughs at the criticism he and general manager Marty Hurney took for selecting Peppers over a quarterback.

"There were some that said we didn't get the best D-lineman on their team," said Fox, referring to North Carolina defensive tackle Ryan Sims, who went No. 6 to Kansas City. "Some people said [Julius'] motor didn't run all the time. What I saw was a guy that finished one sack behind the school sack record that happened to be held by Lawrence Taylor.

"He was a big reason I got to be a head coach as long as I got to. Decisions like that keep you around. There's no doubt in my mind he'll be a first-ballot Hall of Famer."

Former Carolina offensive lineman Kevin Donnalley agreed, saying a first-ballot nod should be a "no-brainer."

"He made it look so easy at times, the way he glided across the field," he said. "That Ray Lewis mentality was there on the defensive side. He just didn't have to showboat it and bring a lot of attention to himself."

That held true to the very end.

"Only time can reveal what's next, but my time here is up," Peppers said in his goodbye video. "No regrets, no looking back and nothing left to give. It's not goodbye, it's kinda like, 'I'll see you later' But until then I'm grateful, I'm satisfied and at peace with all that comes next."

And what comes next should be a bust in Canton.

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Cameron Jordan:

I need to apologize for doing a disservice to a legend, because this still might be too low for Julius Peppers. He’s the GOAT at his position, as far as I’m concerned. He’s definitely the modern-day GOAT — like, the stuff I’ve seen with my own eyes, in my lifetime?

I’ve never seen a defensive end better than Peppers.

So maybe I don’t own the title of best defensive end in the NFC South.

But I’m O.K. conceding that to Peppers — only Peppers.

This man has 154.5 career sacks, fourth all-time. And I would put money on him catching Kevin Greene this season for third all-time.

Peppers started out in Carolina and balled out. Then somehow the Panthers let the legend walk out the door, and he went to Chicago and balled out. Then he went to Green Bay and balled out. Then he went back to Carolina last season, and everybody on the outside looking in was probably thinking, Aw, that’s a nice story. He’s going back home for one last hoorah. Like he was gonna be a third-down specialist or something, coming off the bench late in his career.

Then he goes crazy and gets 11 sacks and everybody’s like, Oh yeah, I forgot … he’s a LE-GEND!

And he got no love for what he did last season — no Pro Bowl, no All-Pro consideration, nobody talking about him among the best in the game — because people just … expect it.

It’s low-key disrespectful. The amount of greatness this man produces year in and year out is undeniable. Yet people take it for granted.


Not to mention he’s in his 17th season in a sport where the average career is like 3.5 years.

When Julius Peppers came into the league in 2002, I was in the eighth grade and I had just gotten my Jevon Kearse jersey (gotta love The Freak). But I remember watching Peppers play football and basketball at UNC and, being a dual-sport athlete, I was like, Yeah, that’s me right there.

I always wanted to be like Julius Peppers.

I tried to compare myself to him when I made my first Pro Bowl in 2013. I had 21.5 sacks three years into my career, and Peppers was at 118.5 at the time.

I was like, O.K. … only 97 sacks to go!

Now, today, I have 61.5 sacks and Peppers is up to 154.5.

Five years after my first Pro Bowl, and I’m still 93 sacks behind him.


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 Much respect Mr. Peppers. I don’t have the emotional attachment that many on here have because you only played for “my” team for the past two years. But from a mostly outside perspective, you were one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen, and turned it into elite production for a long time. Canton is on line one. 


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Julius Peppers retired Friday, ending one of the most extraordinary careers in Carolina Panthers history.

Peppers will be remembered most for his freaky athletic talent — for 17 seasons, he was a marvel even among the marvels who populate every NFL roster. At 6-foot-7, 295 pounds, with the speed of a roadrunner and the strength of a grizzly, Peppers was both a future hall of famer and the sort of player opposing players would sidle up to during warmups, just to take a look up close.

Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly did exactly that when he was a rookie and Carolina was playing Chicago in 2012. Peppers played for the Bears at the time, and Kuechly snuck up near him like a starry-eyed 10-year-old, then left without saying anything.

Peppers had that sort of effect on people, even among those who were as famous as he was.


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40 minutes ago, Truck Stick said:





trying just soooo hard.


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Was thinking with NBA All-Star game here this year

Would be cool to see him in the Celebrity game.

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I will go to canton the day he goes in. Only player in any sport id be willing to attend a HOF ceremony.

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7 hours ago, NJPanthers12 said:

I will go to canton the day he goes in. Only player in any sport id be willing to attend a HOF ceremony.

Ditto, I plan on attending myself. Julius Peppers along with Patrick Ewing are my favorite athletes of all time. Honorable mention to Georges St. Pierre. 

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Julius Peppers announced his retirement Friday via The Players Tribune after 17 years in the NFL as a member of the Carolina Panthers(2002-09, 2017-18), Chicago Bears (2010-13) and Green Bay Packers (2014-16). The nine-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro ranks fourth in NFL history with 159.5 career sacks, including a franchise-record 97 in Carolina. With 11 interceptions, he is the only player in league history to record both 150 sacks and 10 interceptions. Three NFL.com analysts who saw Peppers' work up close -- Bucky Brooks, who scouted Peppers; Steve Smith Sr., who played with Peppers; and Kurt Warner, who played against Peppers -- look back on the dynamic edge rusher's storied tenure.

THE SCOUT: Bucky Brooks

It was interesting scouting Peppers because he went to my alma mater, the University of North Carolina. Everyone knew who he was before you even got on that campus. He was a defensive end on the football team (who played running back in high school) and the sixth man on the UNC basketball team, one of the most well-known collegiate sports programs in the nation. To have an impact in multiple sports at that level was special, and he made plays on the court and on the field. Evaluating him as a scout with the Seattle Seahawks, I was struck by his extraordinary physical gifts. He moved effortlessly with great speed and was an impact player in whatever he did. I knew early on that his talent made him worthy of being a top draft pick; he had the kind of skill set that screamed perennial Pro Bowler with Hall of Famepotential.



In 2003, I joined the Carolina Panthers scouting department, and that's when my perspective proved true, watching him practice every day. I learned to appreciate just how special, explosive and dominant he was coming off the edge. That season -- his second year in the league -- the Panthers had a tremendous defensive line that helped guide the franchise to its first Super Bowl. And Peppers was the guy who made everything go. He took on double-teams, freeing up space for others, and routinely got to the quarterback himself. When building a defense, coordinators always aim to start with a disruptive guy on the edge, and Peppers was the perfect piece. But because he made everything look so easy, I think Peppers was underappreciated during his first stint in Carolina.

During my NFL career as a player, I played with some of the best pass rushers in the game's history -- including Reggie White, Bruce Smith and Derrick Thomas -- so I understood how special Peppers was. When you go back and really pore over his production, he arguably had more disruptive plays than almost every defensive end. It's hard to find players who are so disruptive and well-rounded at their position. Peppers deserves to be mentioned with the all-time greats and is a sure-fire Hall of Famer.

THE TEAMMATE: Steve Smith Sr.

Julius Peppers -- or "Pep," as I call him -- is the complete opposite of me. I always spoke my mind, but Pep often kept to himself, especially in public. Always thoughtful and quiet with a sense of humor, Pep was someone you paid attention to when he spoke in the locker room, at practice or on the sideline. He was a remarkable teammate who went above and beyond what was asked of him. His impact on the field didn't always show on the stat sheet. Yes, he had a ton of sacks and disruptive plays, but he constantly kept the edge, collapsed the pocket, sealed the edge to force the running back to bounce back inside -- and you know damn well that the quarterback always felt his presence. Also, when the defense gave up a touchdown, the extra point -- which, at the old distance, was typically automatic -- was never guaranteed with him on the field. There were a number of guys who were part of that special teams unit, but he was extraordinary in that way -- there was always a chance the extra point (or a field-goal attempt) would get blocked.

We respected each other as teammates and people, and a tradition that started from the time he was drafted in 2003 was shared with everyone, year after year. Wearing Nos. 89 and 90, we were always next to each other in the team photo, displaying quite the contrast between the two of us, considering I'm 5-foot-10 and he's 6-7. I tried to stand on my tippy toes at times. It did nothing for me. Earlier this season, when I was the honorary captain at a Panthers game, Pep walked up to me and said he needed 89 next to him. That statement went a long way, because I knew I meant something to him after all these years.

There are always those players who are special to play with, but Pep was in a league of his own. When I look back on my career in Carolina and all of the things I got to experience in the NFL, playing next to him certainly ranks up there.


Peppers was just one of the biggest, best athletes I ever saw on a football field. The combination of his size and athleticism was unbelievable. I would watch him on film and think, Man, this guy is a great athlete. Then, every time I saw him on the field, I remember thinking, He's a giant, too. How do you have that combination?

I played against him several times in my career, but I specifically remember one meeting in 2009 when I was with the Arizona Cardinals. In the week leading up to that game against Carolina, we put in this play to attack Peppers where one of our guys was going to fire out and cut him, and then I could throw this swing pass up over the top of him. I begged my coach all week long to run the play the other direction. I knew it wasn't going to be pretty, and asked him several times, "Please, when we get into the game, call the play to the right, not the left." Sure enough, my coach calls it to the left. The ball snapped, our guy cut Peppers, and I saw him go down and tried to throw the ball as quickly as I could. He bounced back up, picked it off and walked it into the end zone for a pick-six.

I remember glaring at my coach with that I told you look. I looked like the idiot because I threw it right to him, but he was one of those guys that you had to attack in a completely different way than every other defender. I know we play a game where everyone is a great athlete, but some guys are just rare. He was one of them.

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