Peppers wins Lombardi award

Thursday, December 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HOUSTON (AP) _ Julius Peppers, the North Carolina defensive end who gave up basketball to concentrate on football, won the Vince Lombardi Award on Wednesday night as the top college lineman.

``He was a target of all the teams we played this year,'' Tar Heel academic adviser Carl Carey said.

``Teams went into games to stop him, so the fact he still leads our team in interceptions, in sacks, regardless to what other teams have done to stop him, is a credit to him.''

Peppers, a junior, has 30 1/2 career sacks.

He beat out linebacker Rocky Calmus of Oklahoma and defensive ends Alex Brown of Florida and Dwight Freeney of Syracuse for the award

Peppers was the sixth man on the Tar Heels basketball team, but he decided to put all of his efforts into football this season.

``He certainly loves basketball, but football was where he could find excellence,'' Carey said. ``It was a business decision.''

Peppers could pass up his senior year and enter the NFL draft. He is ready for the challenge.

``People have been telling me all my life I couldn't do things,'' Peppers said. ``I wanted to play basketball and people said I wasn't good enough. You've got to prove yourself and that's what I did.''

Peppers had a season-high 10 tackles, including four for losses and intercepted a pass in a 41-7 victory over Florida State that helped the Tar Heels toward their 7-5 season.

``He's had a lot of support but most people have to face doubters in life,'' Carey said. ``Julius had people doubt him but the good part of the story is he shattered the beliefs of all those doubters.''