Tuesday, January 07, 2003

PEP TALK: Julius Peppers, fellow Tar Heel and a graduate of Southern Nash Senior High School near Rocky Mount, the same institution from which my lovely wife matriculated, is the NFL's defensive rookie of the year. The naysayers who argued that the Carolina Panthers should have selected Joey Harrington or Quentin Jammer with the No. 2 pick in last year's draft -- rather than the awesome Mr. Peppers -- should be properly admonished. The Panthers improved from 1-15 last season to 7-9 this year on the strength of the defense, which went from a sieve to the league's second-best, thanks in large part to Peppers' 12 sacks (in 12 games), his ability to stop the run and his overall intimidation of opponents. Think Lawrence Taylor (another Heel) only larger (6'6", 290#), stronger and quicker. My only regret is that Pep's football career has kept him off the hardwood, where he would have prevented the Heel hoopsters from losing 20 games last season and would be be a godsend as an inside scorer, defender and rebounder on this year's squad ... particularly since they've lost another big body with terrific basketball IQ, Sean May, to a broken foot.

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