After 17 NFL seasons, Julius Peppers is hanging up the cleats for good and calling it a career. The 39-year-old star defensive end can now focus on life after football and wait until he receives the call from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. When that actually happens is the only thing left up in the air.
Ever since he was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft out of North Carolina, the 6-foot-7, 295-pound defensive lineman was an absolute force and one of the greatest pass-rushers of all-time. He recorded 715 total tackles, including 159.5 career sacks, with 79 pass deflections, 51 forced fumbles, 11 interceptions and six defensive touchdowns while playing for the Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers before returning to Carolina for the past two seasons.
The numbers look impressive, no doubt, and they are actually historic. Peppers finishes his 17-year career with the fourth-most sacks in NFL history, trailing only Bruce Smith, Reggie White, and Kevin Greene — who were all Hall of Famers. Not to mention, he was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, three-time First-Team All-Pro and was named to the NFL’s 200s All-Decade Team.
It was a fitting sendoff on social media, too.
Seriously, that retirement video should give you the chills, especially if you are a Panthers fan. The star defensive end from Bailey, North Carolina went to college close to home before starting and finishing his NFL career in Charlotte.
You couldn’t write a better script. There is already a Julius Peppers action figure, and this adds to the legend.
“Thank you, for the victories and the good times, for the lessons and the times we desired more, for the sacrifices, the belief, the confidence, and the unwavering support, I am thankful. Because without you, this wasn’t possible.
“Thank you for the spirit, the resolve, and the attitude to keep pounding. It’s not just something we say around here. It’s how we live. I’m thankful for the things you showed me about life that were bigger than football and for a second chance, a new beginning.
“See, the players, we come and we go. But the constant is you. And as the saying goes, “Once a Panther, always a Panther.” Thank you for the memories, the friendships, the laughs, and the culture we created, for the understanding and for being family.
“Thanks for all of the years and cheers, and for being home, now and forever. I wouldn’t change a thing about this journey. It was the best teacher I’ve ever had and was everything I could have hoped for.
“The tough times never lasted and the tough people inspired me to be better and give more. I hope I did the same.
“Only time can reveal what’s next, but my time here is up. No regrets, no looking back, and nothing left to give.
“It’s not goodbye. It’s kind of like I’ll see you later.
“But until then, I am grateful, I’m satisfied, and at peace with all that comes next.
Throughout history, 73 players have been inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility, and 2019 finalists Tony Gonzalez, Champ Bailey, and Ed Reed have a chance to add to the list.
Despite the defensive player’s amazing career, becoming a first ballot hall of fame is not a guarantee. However in this case, Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers completely deserves to receive his gold jacket in Canton at the very moment he is eligible in five years.