After 17 seasons with three different teams, defensive end Julius Peppers has decided to call it a career. Since being in drafted second overall in the 2002 NFL draft, Peppers has struck fear in the hearts of many quarterbacks. In a time when the game was dominated by hall of famers like Michael Strahan, Richard Seymour and Jason Taylor, Peppers found a way to etch his name into the history of the game.
Following a successful career at the University of North Carolina where he won the Chuck Bednarik and Lombardi awards in 2001, as well as being a unanimous All-American, he was drafted second overall by the Carolina Panthers. In that first season, he recorded 12 sacks with five force fumbles. These numbers would give him NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors that season but it would only lay the groundwork for what was to come. Despite a rough 2003 campaign that saw single digit sacks and a loss in the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots, Peppers would comeback the next year and record 11 sacks and four forced fumbles, en route to a Pro-Bowl and All-Pro season. From there, he would only have one more season where he had less than 10 sacks in a season before the age of 30.
After earning a spot on the NFL 2000’s All-Decade Team, Julius Peppers would move on to the Chicago Bears where he played four seasons. In that time he would register 37.5 sacks. However, after his debut season with the team, the Pro-Bowls stopped coming as the NFL defensive end position started evolving. Despite good numbers with the Bears, they decided it was time for him to go. After multiple attempts to trade him, he was released on March 11th, 2014.
Only four days later, he would garner the interest of another team, one that the Bears didn’t anticipate: the Green Bay Packers. With the Packers, Peppers would play some defensive line but was mainly used as an outside linebacker, where he would show the Bears that he wasn’t done yet. He would record 37.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles and two interceptions, which ultimately were returned for touchdowns. However, his biggest contribution to the Packers was veteran leadership. Alongside one of the best linebacker cores featuring Nick Perry, AJ Hawk and Clay Matthews Jr, they would go to the playoffs every year he was there, with every game coming down to the wire.
With his career winding down, Peppers decided to play his last years with the team that drafted him, the Carolina Panthers. While the Panthers struggled a bit while he was there, he racked up 16 sacks. On February 1st, 2019, he officially called it a career. He finished with 159.5 sacks, which is fourth all time. He would end his career with nine Pro-Bowl selections, and three First-Team All Pro and three Second-Team nods. However, he’ll best be known as one of the the most dominant lineman of the 2000’s, if not all time.