The Daily Nole

NFL, UNC Legend Julius Peppers Had Monster Games vs. FSU

Photo by Bob Donnan /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

While many are getting ready for the big game on Sunday, one NFL legend stepped away from the game on Friday.

Longtime defensive end and future Hall of Famer Julius Peppers called it quits after 17 years in the NFL. Peppers was named to nine Pro Bowls, was a 3-time All-Pro, a member of the 2000s’ all-decade team and the 2002 AP Rookie of the Year. He retires as fourth all-time in NFL history in sacks.

A 2-sport athlete in college at North Carolina, Peppers’ ability was apparent and that was especially true in three match-ups with Florida State. Over those three contests, Peppers totaled 15 tackles, eight for loss, four sacks and an interception.

The most notable performance came in September 2001 as the Tar Heels upset sixth-ranked FSU, 41-9. The Seminoles were outscored 34-0 in the second half as the Tar Heels handed FSU head coach Bobby Bowden his worst regular season loss in 18 years and Peppers was a big reason why.

Peppers finished the day with eight tackles, including half of those for loss, one sack and a third-quarter interception of FSU quarterback Chris Rix that set up a field goal to give the Tar Heels a 20-9 lead. The performance earned Peppers the national honor for Bronko Nagurski Defensive Player of the Week.

After earning some national acclaim in 2000 and being named first-team All-ACC, Peppers’ junior season of 2001 would be the year he became a household name, earning Consensus All-American honors while winning the Lombardi Award and Bednarik Trophy. The Seminoles were well aware of what we could do prior to that.

FSU proved to be too much for North Carolina in the two seasons prior, winning 42-10 in Chapel Hill during the 1999 national championship campaign and 63-14 in Tallahassee a year later, but Peppers could hardly be blamed for UNC’s woes. As a freshman in 1999, Peppers recorded two tackles and a sack against the eventual national champs. The following year, he recorded five tackles, three for loss and a pair of sacks against eventual Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke and backup Marcus Outzen.

Following the 2001 season, Peppers would go on to be drafted second overall by the Carolina Panthers. Peppers spent 10 total seasons with Carolina in two separate stints, which were sandwiched around stays with the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers.

His bust will almost certainly be enshrined in Canton one day and Peppers’ potential as a player could be seen early on. That’s unfortunately true for those who wear garnet and gold on Saturday.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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