Since the moment he arrived on the Michigan campus, Jabrill Peppers has drawn comparisons to 1997 Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, including from Woodson himself. However, Peppers isn’t an identical copy of Woodson given the positional difference on the defensive side of the ball and, when prompted about the obvious parallel, the multi-faceted superstar pushed back on the Woodson comparison by being extremely deferential.
David Mayo of MLive.com brings word from Peppers:
“That’s where my opinion differs. Charles Woodson, if you just look at what he has done for his teams, it’s just mind-boggling now that I’m actually playing — in high school, I used to embrace all that, but now I’m actually playing at this level and I can see what he was able to do for his team, take away one-half of the field, scared to throw at him, big-time plays in big-time moments.”
While it is refreshing to see humility from an athlete with the physical and cerebral gifts of Peppers, he couldn’t resist pointing out the one area in which the youngster would have held an edge over the highly decorated future Hall of Fame defensive back:
“What I would agree with, or where I would say I edge him, is athleticism. He’s a little taller, rangier guy than I am, but I feel like I’m probably — if we were to race, and if I had been born back in the day, I feel like I would beat him in a race.”
Peppers is currently a hybrid linebacker for the Wolverines, making it even crazier to consider that he is probably faster in a straight line than Woodson ever was. Still, his combination of explosiveness and versatility (Peppers is also a top-flight punt returner and offensive contributor) helps to form a rare Heisman candidacy for a defense-first player and Peppers also responded to the notion that he could be a candidate.
In addition to saying that the Heisman was, essentially, an “offensive award”, he had this to say about a similar player from the west coast:
“If you look at it, you know, how many defensive players have won it? Just one. So I’m not really worried about the Heisman, to be honest. They talk about versatility. If they want a guy with versatility I’d say Adoree’ Jackson out of USC, you check his resume, he’s doing a damn good job for his squad. They haven’t been winning as much as he’d like to but I definitely think he should be in the Heisman race too, if people say I should be.”
Jabrill Peppers is arguably the most talented player in college football and he is only a redshirt sophomore. Michigan fans are already crossing their fingers about a return for 2017, but on a broader scale, Peppers has a legitimate chance to win the Heisman Trophy and follow fully in the footsteps of the player he admires at the highest level.