Peppers Named Lombardi Award Finalist

Houston, Texas ----- Four of the nation's top defensive players, Alex Brown of Florida, Rocky Calmus of Oklahoma, Dwight Freeney of Syracuse and Julius Peppers of North Carolina, have been named as finalists for the 2001 Rotary Lombardi Award.

The winner will be announced at the 32nd annual Rotary Lombardi Award Dinner at the JW Marriott Hotel in Houston on December 5. The four were selected by a national panel of over 300 members, including all Division I football coaches, sports writers, broadcasters and former winners of the award.

Peppers, a junior defensive end, has emerged as one of the dominant players in the country this season. Playing a schedule that is ranked as the nation's most difficult, Peppers is just three sacks shy of the Tar Heels career mark for sacks, held by 1997 Lombardi finalist, Greg Ellis. Peppers has 52 tackles this season, including 17 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He also leads the team with three interceptions, which ranks 10th in the ACC and is more interceptions than any other defensive lineman in the nation. Peppers was a first-team All-America selection last year by after posting 15 sacks and establishing a school record with 24 tackles for loss.

Brown, who reached the finals for the first time after being named a semifinalist for three consecutive years, is the Gators first Rotary Lombardi Award finalist. He holds the Florida single season and career sack records and is in line to earn All-SEC honors for the third consecutive season.

Calmus, who spearheaded the Sooners drive to the National Championship in 2000, is the 10th Oklahoma finalist and their first since Keith Jackson in 1987. He'll be looking to join Lee Roy Selmon (1975) and Tony Casillas (1985) as Sooner winners of the Rotary Lombardi Award. He is Oklahoma's career leader in tackles for losses in addition to leading all linebackers in career stops.

Freeney leads the nation with 16.5 sacks and 26 tackles for loss this season and has been one of the main reasons Syracuse has made a strong run at the Big East title. In his last 18 games over the past two seasons, he has 30.5 sacks. He is the second Orangemen named as a finalist, joining Ted Gregory, who was honored in 1987.

The four Finalists and their head coaches will be flown to Houston on December 4 for a myriad of activities in Houston, which include visits to local hospitals and area youth groups. The culmination of their activities in Houston will be the black tie dinner at the J.W. Marriott Hotel on December 5, where the 32nd recipient of The Rotary Lombardi Award will be revealed. Dom Capers, head coach of the Houston Texans will be the featured speaker, while longtime Houston broadcaster Ron Stone will serve as the Master of Ceremonies.

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