Red Hot Peppers

Want a hot stock tip? Forget about pork bellies. No, there's nothing in petroleum either. And the tech stocks are through the roof one day and in the toilet the next. The sure-fire winner is putting your money in peppers. No, not jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, or bannana peppers—Julius Peppers.

And you can bet your bottom dollar that he is hotter than a jalapeno pepper right now.

Currently, The Sporting News rates Peppers fourth in the Heisman watch behind three offensive players—UCLA's DeShaun Foster, Nebraska's Eric Crouch, and Miami's Ken Dorsey. He is one of 12 semi-finalists for the Lombardi Award. He is a candidate for the Nagurski Award. And two weeks ago, he was voted to the CBS Sports Online and mid-season All-America teams. Finally, he's been named ACC's defensive lineman of the week twice and the national defensive player of the week once.

And why shouldn't he be?

He has 8.5 sacks and 17 tackles-for-loss this season, along with his NCAA-leading three interceptions for defensive linemen. Four more sacks and he'll surpass the school career record of 32.5 currently held by Greg Ellis.

He has fans clamoring for autographs, he's been asked to chat on, and he has agents following him like heat-seeking missiles.

"They stop me on campus, or they'll be waiting for me somewhere on campus," said the All-American of the harrassment from agents.

They sit outside his apartment and wait for him, and they call him on his cell phone so much that he has had to change the number "more than twice" so far this semester.

"It's weird that they can get your number without you giving it to them," remarked Peppers. "They are very resourceful. They have ways of getting it… [but] I don't deal with them. I don't have anything to say to them right now."

And now that basketball season has started, he's in demand on the basketball court. The fans want to see the tremendous athleticism from the man-child who has been described as "a freak of nature" by more than one of his teammates in both sports.

"Who wouldn't [want to see him play]?" asked senior Jason Capel

In last season's second-round NCAA loss to Penn State, Julius Peppers was the only player who was effective, contributing a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds.

"I think he's going to play," Capel added. "I know Pep. Kris, Pep, and Ronald are my closest friends at Carolina. I know how he is. Pep's going to be the #1 pick in the draft. If you think about it, he's not going to fall lower than three. You can't get any higher than that. I know how much he loves to play basketball, and I know how much he loves the attention. People don't get to see his face and see his smile with that helmet on. When he puts that [basketball] jersey on, everybody in America gets to see him, and that's what he's all about. He really wants to play basketball, and I think he'll be out there."

"Cape—that's what he thinks," said Peppers in response to Capel's claim. "I know he didn't say that I said that, but that's what he thinks."

Whether or not he plays remains to be seen, but Peppers did hint that he may be back by writing a letter to the basketball fans that UNC Basketball coach Matt Doherty read at the Tar Heels' "Midnight Madness" basketball event on October 12. "I can't be there tonight, but our paths may cross again," wrote Peppers, to a loud cheer as it was read.

His stock is high right now, and it's only going to go higher. The can't-miss proposition is to put your money in peppers—Julius Peppers.

He's 6-6 tall, he's 290 pounds, and he's one of the most recognized athletes at UNC. It's hard to miss him on campus, on the football field, or on the basketball court. Just don't try to call him on his cell phone. If you do know his number, chances are that it will change again before too long.

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