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Panthers, UNC legend Julius Peppers nominated on 2022 College Football Hall of Fame ballot

Published: Jun. 7, 2021 at 3:09 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Carolina Panthers and North Carolina legendary linebacker Julius Peppers is nominated on the 2022 College Football Hall of Fame ballot.

He is the all-time sack leader for the Panthers and a nine-time Pro Bowler, This is his third time on the ballot after being listed in 2019 and 2020.

A native of Bailey, N.C., Peppers played three seasons at the University of North Carolina.

In his three seasons with the Tar Heels, Peppers had 167 tackles, 30.5 sacks, five interceptions and five forced fumbles. He was also named All-ACC two times.

He was a unanimous All-American in 2001 and was also named the nation’s top defensive player and the nation’s top interior lineman in the same year. He also finished 10th place in Heisman Trophy voting that year.

Peppers was drafted No. 2 overall by the Carolina Panthers in 2002, played 18 years in the NFL earning a spot on the league’s All-Decade Team for both the 2000s and the 2010s.

Also on the ballot this year is Ron Rivera, Carolina’s former head coach who won 76 games between 2011-19, and who was a first-team All-American at California in 1983.

After 17 NFL seasons, Carolina Panthers Julius Peppers announced his retirement in Feb. 2019. He did so in an emotional video on Twitter.

In the clip, Peppers is seen walking through the locker room removing his belongings. The North Carolina native says he’s thankful for the unwavering support, victories, and sacrifices.

“Thank you for the spirit, the resolve and the attitude to Keep Pounding. It’s not something we just say around here, it’s how we live,” Peppers said. “I’m thankful for the things you showed me about life that were bigger than football and for a second chance – a new beginning.”

Peppers, in his 10th season with the Panthers, ranked second among all defensive players, and holds the franchise record for sacks, forced fumbles, and blocked field goals.

Peppers ranks fourth in NFL history with 159.5 sacks, including a franchise-record 97 in Carolina, the Panthers say. The team calls him a “future Hall of Famer.”

“In getting to know Julius over these past months, I’ve learned that he is a man of few words. When he speaks, everyone listens,” Panthers owner David Tepper said. “With that in mind, I will be brief. He’s one of the best to ever wear a Carolina uniform. He carries himself with dignity, integrity and class, and will always be a Panther.”

The Panthers defensive end was nominated for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award at the end of 2018.

“Julius is one of the greatest to ever play the game of football,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “To put up the numbers he did for as long as he did speaks to his incredible talent and commitment. He is a leader in the locker room and in the community."

Peppers donated $100,000 to start the Julius Peppers Hurricane Relief Fund through the Foundation for the Carolinas. Peppers was moved by Florence’s devastation along the Carolina coast and sprung into action.

“There are very few players that you come across that make you think of the word ‘special’ when you mention their name, but that’s Julius,” said general manager Marty Hurney. “He’s a special player and a special person."

The Panthers veteran did not say what his plans were for the future in the video but says his retirement is not a goodbye.

“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,” Peppers said. “Once a Panther, always a Panther.”

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