Jabrill Peppers is without question ready to start collecting checks on Sunday. In most mocks drafts, he is projected to be a top 10 pick at the safety position in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft. However, don’t be surprised if he decides not to declare after this season.
After having nagging injuries and being limited to playing only 2 ½ games his freshman year, Peppers was redshirted and sat out the remainder of the 2014 season. The sophomore technically still has two more years of eligibility left to play at Michigan. The big question is, will Peppers forgo his two years and declare for the draft or will he return to the Wolverines?
After displaying his versatility all year playing multiple positions, it seems like a no brainer that he is for sure going to the NFL. Even the Big Ten took notice of some of his accomplishments as he took home some hardware as he was awarded the Nagurski-Woodson defensive player of the year, the Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the year and the Butkus-Fitzgerald linebacker of the year award. That makes him the first player to win three individual awards in the same season since the awards program expanded in 2011. He would finish the regular season on offense with 3 rushing touchdowns, 751 total yards and 1 punt return for a touchdown. On defense, he recorded 71 total tackles, 48 solo, 15 TFL, 4 sacks, 1 FF and 1 interception that would be his first of his career. That interception would come in the 3rd quarter against Ohio State.
We all knew that losing to Iowa had a slight possibility to end up hurting us at the end of the season. But we also knew that if we had beaten Ohio State it was almost certain that we would clinch a playoff berth. After losing to the Buckeyes 30-27 in double-OT, there was still hope. We had to rely too much on the what ifs and had to cheer for the underdogs in Colorado and Virginia Tech. Peppers was very quick to react after it was officially announce that the Wolverines were on the outside looking in.
While acknowledging their loss and failures he also threw some love back to PSU for getting the job that they couldn’t do. Beat Ohio St. and win the Big Ten Championship.
Like majority of his life, it looks like Peppers has turned to his mother once more for some guidance. Earlier this week, per Darren Heitner who is a sports attorney tweeted that Peppers’ mother, Ivory Bryant had delivered a forty-one-question document to all prospective NFL agents.
Now this doesn’t necessarily say that it’s a sure thing that we will make the jump. The way I look at it, is that his mother wants the very best for his future and wants to help explore the options and eliminate any difficulty that her son might be having in front of him. So! Will Jabrill Peppers return to Michigan for one more year? I think so. Should he? Yes. Those answers are not just me being a biased fan and no I do not have any high-end sources telling me this. It’s just what I truly believe.
At the age of 7, Jabrills’ father Terry, the same person that introduced him to the game, was arrested on a weapons charge.
“My father was arrested when I was seven years old. In that split second when he was taken away, I went from having a father who I could work out with and who was on the sideline for all my football games, to being a kid searching for a male role model in his life. And I didn’t know how long he was going to be gone.”
He said in an entry he posted on The Players’ Tribune titled The Game. It’s a must read.
Without a father figure, he had turned to his older brother, Don.
“Don was the guy I looked up to. And even though he was out in the streets like most of the other guys in our neighborhood, doing things he wasn’t supposed to be doing, he would never let me get involved. He kept me on the right path from a young age. And he was one of the first people who told me I had the potential to be something great — that I needed to chase my football dream. “You have a God-given gift,” he’d say. It would be disrespectful to God to not make the most of that gift.”
Like a lot of kids in urban neighborhoods, we dreamed a lot about the future, of better times. Many kids were so caught up in the street life that they couldn’t dream past the city limits. But Don and I talked differently, mostly because of my potential on the football field. That was going to be my way out — our way out.”
In January of 2010, for the second time in Jabrills’ life another father figure was taken from him too soon, when Don was shot and killed. Bryant was left alone to raise her son despite working long hours as a social worker to support her son. Just before his senior year of high school his father Terry was released from prison after serving nearly 11 years.
“We was just trying to get to know each other again,” Peppers said. “A lot of time had passed. Ten and a half years, almost 11 years. At the end of the day, man, that’s my pops. We’re still working on our relationship. It’s going to get better. We’ve still got to make up for that 10 and a half years, but we’re gonna be all right.”
After losing his brother, Peppers never had a type of “brother hood” like he did Don until he came to Michigan. Not just the family and brothers he goes to war with every Saturday but his brothers of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. During the 78-0 rout of Rutgers, Peppers returned a punt for a touchdown that would eventually get called back. After Peppers ran into the end zone he would put up his arms as some may know as “throwing the hooks”.
For those who don’t know, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity (OPPF) is the first international fraternal organization founded at a historically black college. The fraternity was founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C on Nov. 23, 1911. Before joining the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity last spring, Peppers wasn’t recruited. He actually reached out to fraternity.
“He sought us out,” says Terence Browner, a Michigan senior and member of the fraternity. “The more he learned about it, the more he felt the connection, the vibe. I could sense the excitement oozing off of him. He wanted to be a part of something.”
He wanted to surround himself with people who reflect him and who he wants to be. Peppers found others that are like him that enjoy community service and giving back. While only being engaged with the fraternity for such a short time, Peppers’ and a few of his friends went across town to Community High School in Ann Arbor and spoke to about 200 students about habits, time management and the transition from high school to college.
“He literally had an individual conversation with every single person who approached him,” says Brandon Jackson, a friend of Peppers who teaches world history at the high school. “I mean, we’re talking about 200 people. He asked every one of them something about themselves and answered more questions if they had them.
“Every kid that day walked away feeling good about themselves, feeling uplifted.”
Not only is Jabrill Peppers the most versatile player in the nation on the field but his play is very similar off the field. Playing for Michigan has been his dream since he was a little kid. So why stop now? Why not one more year? Just imagine the impact that he could do in that time. Not only for UofM but the state of Michigan itself. His talent level is ready for the NFL and his maturity is way above a lot of players at his age. There is a few wrinkles that I had noticed in the last three games that certainly can be fixed at the college level.
Whether he decides to go now or next year his mother is definitely getting the home that she deserves for raising such a humble and gifted young man. If push comes to shove and he decides to go he might want to start shopping around for a bigger trophy case as earlier today he was announced as one of the top 5 finalist for the Heisman Trophy. His reaction says it all.
Hopefully Peppers recalls what he wrote and rethinks the order of his goals.
“I’m on a mission. And that mission won’t be complete until … I don’t even know when. I guess I have a lot of missions. It’s always changing. That’s how you continue to grow and get better. You set goals that seem impossible, and when you reach them, you set more impossible goals and do whatever humanly possible to reach those, too. I want to win a national championship at Michigan. I want to graduate. I want to go to the NFL and have a long, successful career.”
Make sure you write it down on your calendars as Michigan vs. Florida State in Orange Bowl on Friday, December 30th at 8:00pm as we just may witness Peppers play his very last game.
“Those who stay will be champions”
Hail.. Go Blue!