As you may or may not have heard, Michigan Swiss Army Knife (because really, he has no position) Jabrill Peppers is a Heisman Trophy finalist, and that sent people’s heads into orbit for some bizarre reason.
Never does irrationality meet its summit than with sports, and the “name on the front of the jersey.”
Rather than celebrating Peppers’ truly incredible march from tragic childhood to the Heisman Trophy ceremony as a college athlete, it was found more appropriate to nitpick on the things Peppers hadn’t done rather than marvel at what he did.
CFB media rips Jabrill Peppers as Heisman finalist https://t.co/wMehlUsvuv
— ama bistro (@amabistro) December 6, 2016
Peppers’ story of a tough upbringing and a million reasons to go down the wrong path are not unique only to him, though it doesn’t make the story any less inspiring. They all are, especially when the majority of us mire around with obstacles that pale by comparison on a daily basis but are treated all the same.
His father went to prison when he was seven. His brother was buried by hard street elements around him and was shot and killed when Peppers was 14, in 2010.
That Peppers even made his way to Michigan, or any school, is somewhat of a miracle.
When faced with atrocious tragedies in life, or even things that just make life a little tougher to get through, people have the opportunity to go two ways with it … let it engulf them and follow along the same path under the guise of “that’s all I know” or choose to do the exact opposite as to not fall into the same traps.
In football, Peppers found his life raft.
He came to Michigan as arguably the most heralded recruit since the last Michigan defensive player to be invited to the Heisman ceremony, Charles Woodson, with whom Peppers has built a close bond.
Like Peppers, Woodson came from a hardscrabble area that could have taken him sideways. Like Peppers, he came to be a dominant player for the Wolverines.
Peppers’ statistics don’t jump off the map at you, which is where people get a little bit frosty with his inclusion (you assume?).
Normally, guys with 66 tackles, four total touchdowns on offense and special teams combined, and one interception aren’t getting accolades of the Heisman kind. But to watch Michigan, and Peppers, is to see that what he’s done in Ann Arbor is very little about statistics and all about leadership.
Why is Jabrill Peppers a Heisman finalist? 8 highlight plays from 2016 https://t.co/caFr73ap5z
— MLive Sports (@MLiveSports) December 6, 2016
Time and time again this year for the revived Wolverines, there was Peppers, hooting to the crowd, scowling around on the sidelines yelling encouragement at any teammate who would listen to him (which, at the volume he was at, had to be all of them) and there was Peppers the second games ended, running on the field in celebration.
Look, maybe every team has a guy like that. Heck, any team that wins probably ought to.
But Peppers was the heart and soul of one of the top defenses in college football, a cog on its offense, a guy that changed field position so many times as a special teamear and defender simply because teams wanted to do anything they could to avoid him.
And he was Michigan’s leader and inspirer.
There are value in more things than hard numbers, statistics, and yes, even singularly memorable plays.
Peppers probably won’t win the Heisman Trophy, because if you’re a defender, you’d best be playing for a title to even be considered.
But he’ll be there, and he deserves to be there. A story that could have gone a lot of ways sidelines found its way to Ann Arbor, and come the Heisman ceremony, New York City, and where it goes from there is anyone’s guess.
Just, no matter what numbers you like, don’t ever count the guy out.