CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Defensive end Julius Peppers has been named as the Carolina Panthers nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award, the league announced Thursday.
Peppers is one of 32 players, one from each NFL team, eligible to be selected for the only NFL award that recognizes a player for his community service activities as well as his excellence on the field.
This fall, when Hurricane Florence hit the coast of North and South Carolina, Peppers was moved to action. He saw photos and heard the stories of people that had lost so much in places near where he grew up in Bailey, N.C.
He donated $100,000 to start the Julius Peppers Hurricane Relief Fund through the Foundation for the Carolinas, and encouraged teammates and fans to pledge their support. However, his donation was only the beginning of his commitment. Since his donation, he visited hurricane-ravaged areas – Robeson County in North Carolina and Marlboro County in South Carolina, both underserved areas that reminded him of his hometown where he did more than just visit for a photo opportunity. He put on a mask and helped tear down damaged walls, moved furniture and served food for those spending each day trying to pick up the pieces.
Along with his work helping hurricane victims, Peppers used the occasion of the November mid-term election to use his voice and platform to encourage and facilitate voter registration. He saw it as his duty to encourage civic involvement in his home state.
Peppers has donated more than $300,000 to the University of North Carolina’s Light on the Hill Society Scholarship fund that supports African-American students. Peppers gave $100,000 to the fund in 2009 and $250,000 to the fund in 2012. The scholarship program is a tribute to Carolina’s earliest African-American graduates and a vehicle for alumni and friends of the university to support African-American freshman who exhibit academic excellence and the potential to contribute while at UNC and after graduation.
On the field, Peppers has been one of the most prolific defensive ends to ever play the game. A nine-time Pro Bowler, Peppers has played in 172 consecutive games, the second-longest active streak in the NFL among position players. Peppers is the oldest active defensive player in the NFL and his 262 career games played rank sixth among all defenders in NFL history.
Peppers currently ranks fourth in NFL history with 158.5 career sacks. He has the most sacks of any active NFL player, and is the only player in history with at least 150 sacks and 10 interceptions. He has recorded 51 career forced fumbles, one behind Robert Mathis for the most forced fumbles since the statistic became official in 2000. Peppers has six career defensive touchdowns, tied for third-most among all NFL defensive linemen and linebackers.
Peppers is in his 10th season with the Panthers, ranking second among all defensive players with 150 games played in a Panthers uniform. He holds franchise records for sacks, forced fumbles, blocked field goals and is second in fumble recoveries, third in defensive touchdowns while holding the record for the longest interception return in a game.
Peppers was recently named the Panthers Ed Block Courage Award winner, given to a player each season who demonstrates courage on and off the field. He was also named the Panthers nominee for the NFL’s Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, which recognizes players around the league who exemplify outstanding sportsmanship on the field.
The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award recognizes NFL players who have not only exhibited excellence on-the-field, but whose passion to impact lives extends beyond the game and has led them to leave a positive legacy in their communities. The winner will be announced during NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on February 2, the eve of Super Bowl LIII, on CBS
Five hundred thousand dollars will be donated in the name of the 2018 winner. $250,000 will be donated in his name to expand Character Playbook, the NFL and United Way’s digital character education program. An additional donation of $250,000 will be donated to the charity of his choice. All other 31 nominees will receive a donation of $50,000 in their name to expand Character Playbook, and an additional donation of up to $50,000 to their charity of choice. New this year, all 32 team winners will be highlighted as finalists and recognized for their important work during the weekend leading up to Super Bowl LIII.