Julius Peppers was raised in Bailey, North Carolina. Due to his incredible size and athleticism, he contributed at defensive line and running back as a freshman at Southern Nash Senior High School with no previous football experience. He rushed for 3,501 yards and 43 touchdowns in his career. An All-Conference basketball player and state champion sprinter in track, he was named High School Male Athlete of the Year in North Carolina.
Remaining in his home state, Peppers played defensive end at the University of North Carolina. He was named a Freshman All-American by Sporting News before a breakout sophomore season. He led the country with 15 sacks, and was named first-team All-ACC and second-team All-American. Despite Peppers’ success, he decided to walk-on to the highly ranked Men’s Basketball team, and contributed as a reserve player, notably during the NCAAB Tournament. In his last season at Chapel Hill, Peppers focused on football and took home the Chuck Bednarik Award, and also received consensus All-American honors, finishing with 63 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, and three interceptions. He ended his career with 53 tackles for loss and 30.5 sacks, both second all-time at North Carolina.
Peppers was drafted second overall in the 2002 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers and named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. The six-time All-Pro and eight-time Pro-Bowler was named NFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 and was also named to the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. He is currently in his fourth year with the Chicago Bears and continues to put immense pressure on each quarterback he faces.