"As has been previously reported, I will forego my final year of football eligibility and enter the 2002 NFL draft," Peppers said. "In the past few days, I have also contemplated my immediate future and have decided not to play basketball this season. For the most part, my decision is based upon the difficult reality of balancing academics, basketball and preparing for the NFL draft simultaneously. While I love the sport of basketball, I had to make the mature decision and prioritize my education and my career. I will spend the next few months making progress toward my college degree and preparing for the draft. I would like to thank the University, the athletic department, coaches, staff and fans for their support over the years."
A 6-6, 285-pound junior, Peppers started the last three years after redshirting as a freshman. A unanimous All-America selection in 2001, Peppers became the first Tar Heel to win a major college football award when he won the Lombardi Trophy as the nation's top lineman. He also won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation's top defensive player and was named the 2001 Chevrolet Defensive Player of the Year. Beginning next season, Peppers' #49 jersey will hang from the Kenan Stadium facade.
"Julius was a great leader for us this season and I appreciate everything he did for the team and the University," said head football coach John Bunting. "I think his best playing days are ahead of him and he has the potential to be an NFL star. I know it has been a dream for Julius to play in the NFL and I look forward to watching him compete for many years."
Peppers finished the 2001 season with 63 tackles, including 19 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks, and had a team-high three interceptions. This season, he intercepted more passes than any other defensive lineman in the country. Peppers was spectacular in Carolina's wins over ranked opponents Florida State and Clemson. Against the Seminoles, he tied his career high with 10 tackles, had four tackles for loss, one sack and intercepted a pass in a 41-9 victory, Carolina's first ever win over FSU. Against the Tigers, Peppers made an incredible interception of a Woody Dantzler pass, tossing aside two blockers, batting the ball in the air and lunging for the interception in a 38-3 win.
As a sophomore in 2000, Peppers led the nation in sacks with 15 and established a school record with 24 tackles for loss. His 15 sacks were just one shy of Lawrence Taylor's school record. In 1999, Peppers was named first-team Freshman All-America by The Sporting News, leading the Tar Heels in tackles for loss and sacks.
Despite playing just three seasons, Peppers finished his career second on Carolina's all-time lists for sacks with 30.5 and tackles for loss with 53.
Peppers played in 56 games over a two-year stretch for the UNC basketball team, averaging 3.7 points and 5.7 rebounds. He was instrumental in Carolina's run to the 2000 Final Four, playing in 31 games and averaging 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds. Last season, Peppers played in 25 games, averaging 7.1 points and 4.0 rebounds as the Tar Heels tied for the ACC regular-season championship. In his final game last season against Penn State, Peppers notched his first career double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
"My staff and I certainly wish Julius all the best," said head basketball coach Matt Doherty. "He has been a great ambassador for Carolina football and basketball. I look forward to watching him play on Sundays for many years."