Peppers Wins Lombardi!

Peppers is also named as a First Team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association.

Peppers was selected over fellow finalists Alex Brown (DE) of Florida, Rocky Calmus (LB) of Oklahoma, Dwight Freeney (DE) of Syracuse in a final round of voting by a national panel, consisting of all current Division I head football coaches, writers, sportscasters and the former winners of the award.

"I think it's well deserved for a young man that has worked so hard to improve his skills," said head coach John Bunting. "He's obviously very, very skilled, but he's worked so hard to improve those skills that he deserves this kind of recognition.

"He's very coachable and very much into the game of football. He wants to be the best and that's what's helped him earn this type of thing."

Peppers, who piled up 15 sacks as a sophomore, ran his career total to 30 1/2 this season to rank second only to 1997 Lombardi finalist Greg Ellis in school history. Peppers intercepted three passes this season, the most by a lineman in school history and returned one for a touchdown.

After starting the season with losses to Oklahoma, Maryland and Texas (who finished this year a combined 30-5), Peppers and his team rebounded against Florida State. He had a season-high 10 tackles, including four for losses and intercepted a pass as Carolina whipped the Seminoles 41-9 and began a march to a 7-5 season and a berth in the Peach Bowl.

On winning the award, Peppers said, "I don't think anyone expected me to win. It feels great. It's a great honor. I'm still kind of in shock. I knew I had a chance to win it, but I didn't think I would."

When asked if the individual award made all of the off-season work worth it, Peppers replied, "It does. Not only this, but going to the Peach Bowl as a team."

Peppers' victory gives the ACC back-to-back Rotary Lombardi winners, joining Jamal Reynolds of Florida State and it is the conference's fourth winner overall, joining Reynolds, Marvin Jones of Florida State (1992) and Randy White of Maryland (1974).

The Rotary Lombardi Award is presented annually in Houston and has raised more than $2.6 million for the American Cancer Society's programs of cancer research since its inception in 1970. The winner is presented to the college lineman - on offense or defense - who, in addition to outstanding performance on the field, best exemplifies the characteristics and discipline of Vince Lombardi.

Peppers was also named today as a first-team All-America by the America Football Coaches Association. Peppers has now earned first-team All-America honors from Football News, the Football Writers (FWAA) and the AFCA.

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