“Absence makes the heart grow fonder” may be a cliché, but that doesn’t necessarily make it true. Absence sometimes makes the heart grow fonder, but it also creates opportunities for other suitors to step in and sow seeds of doubt. That’s in part what happened with Paramus Catholic standout Jabrill Peppers. Michigan’s up and down season gave rival programs the fodder necessary to raise questions about the stability of the program in Ann Arbor. He began to wonder whether the vision he’d had of his Wolverine future upon committing last summer would even be possible. When he finally made his way back to the Great Lake State for his official visit last weekend he excited to see that it still is.
“It is always (fun) going up to Michigan,” said Peppers. “ The coaching staff is just amazing. It is kind of crazy because when I’m talking to them sometimes I forget that they are coaches. That’s how cool they are – even Coach Hoke. He is such a humble laid back kind of guy. You just forget that he is a head coach of a historic college university. It is always a pleasure going up there and kicking it with those guys. Meeting my futures teammates for the first time all the recruits were up there with me. I think we definitely got something going. The coaches have recruited guys... all of us are alike. We’ve got that drive in us and we’ve got that ‘want’ to bring Michigan football back to where it is supposed to be. We’ve got a lot of guys returning. Devin Funchess, DG (Devin Gardner)… hopefully he comes back with us next year. We’ve got a lot of guys coming back on the defensive side of the ball. The O-line is real young. I think this year was definitely a learning experience for most of those guys. I think definitely the years to come we should cause some havoc.”
Hoke and company didn’t dwell on the topic of his future, but the Wolverine brass did ever so briefly reiterate the erroneousness of the rumors. The message clearly hit its mark.
“(Hoke) just told me that him and Dave Brandon came in together and he said they are going to leave together,” recalled Peppers. “Dave Brandon put out a statement that Coach Hoke is going to be the coach for years to come. That was one of my main concerns. You just get so comfortable with the coaching staff and you hear things (about) how they are expected to perform and (how they’re) not performing like they’re expected to… and you hear rumors surrounding the coaching staff. You just want to be (more) safe than sorry. (His tweet about possibly taking visits) was nothing too big. I didn’t think the tweet was going to blow up like it did. I saw Bo Scarbrough was taking visits and he was committed. I really didn’t think nothing of it, but by the way it blew up I was like, ‘oh my God, what did I just do?’ (Laughter). I love the players and I love the coaches. Ann Arbor is just a happy town… a football town. The whole school showed me love. I brought my mom with me too. She loved sitting down with Ms. Shari (Acho) and all the academic people. She’s all bought in. I’m 100% going Blue.”
Mom’s rubber stamp has a greater significance than most observers know. For a youngster that loathes pretense in those he surrounds himself with, mom’s discerning eye is useful tool in keeping his circle free of disingenuousness.
“She loves (Michigan),” said Peppers. “When they sat her down in that academic building I think that was a big deal for her. She was asking me and I couldn’t remember everything they told me because it was just so much. My mom can tell when someone is (putting on a show) or if they’re real. I definitely think she saw the coaching staff was real. She knows that the football thing will take care of itself. She wants to know what I’m going to do in that classroom. She is all bought in.”
With so much positive reinforcement of his initial pledge the obvious question is does the talented youngster still feel the need to visit other schools?
“Naw, I don’t think I’m going to take any more,” Peppers replied. “I think I’m done with it. I’m just going to stay true and I’m going to Go Blue. You are the only reporter that I’m telling this. A lot of reporters are trying to reach me and I told them, if it ain’t Sam Webb, don’t talk to me. (Laughter). Guys are just looking for a story. You got all these guys that they heard something from a good source – you ain’t heard nothing from a source! If it did not come from my mouth, it is not a good source.”
Stay tuned for much more from Peppers in the coming days.