Jabrill Peppers Makes Big Ten Network's All-Decade Team as All-Purpose Player

Eric Rutter

When examining the best players to suit up in the Big Ten over the last decade, no list would be complete without Jabrill Peppers.

At Michigan, Peppers was the answer to almost any question that could arise surrounding the Wolverines lineup. Who can set the team up with quality field position in the return game? Jabrill Peppers. Who can float near the line of scrimmage and dart into the backfield to make tackles? Jabrill Peppers. Who can help open the offense with creative packages that kept defenses on their heels? Jabrill Peppers.

On Friday, the Big Ten Network named the two-time All-American to the conference's All-Decade team as an all-purpose player, which is the most fitting role for Peppers to assume.

"Jabrill Peppers was literally a do-it-all player," Sports Illustrated's Pat Forde said. "[There] wasn't anything on the football field he couldn't do. I'm sorry we didn't get to see him placekick, but I'm sure he could perform that duty as well for the Michigan Wolverines. He was a tackler. He was a cover guy. He was a punt gunner. He was a return guy. He was a running back. He was a wide receiver. He could do anything. His versatility may have kept him from being one of the great individual players at a specific position, but as a whole he was probably the best complete player the Big Ten has seen in the decade."

Entering college, Jabrill Peppers was the highest rated football recruit to ever sign with Michigan before Rashan Gary would snag that mantle two years later. In the 2014 class, Peppers was lauded as the No. 3 player in the country and the No. 1 player at his position as an athlete because it would simply be inaccurate to restrict him to one position.

That thought process persisted in college as the Wolverines used Peppers in a variety of scenarios. As a freshman in 2014, Peppers appeared in only three games due to an injury issue, so his hype train took a bit longer to gain steam than some may have expected, but in no time at all Peppers was making impact plays all over the field as a sophomore.

That season, Peppers mostly played safety and accumulated 45 tackles, 10 pass deflections, five and a half tackles for loss while also contributing over 500 all-purpose yards as a kick and punt returner. However, this level of production just scratched the surface for what the five-star prospect would accomplish during his junior campaign.

Transitioning from safety into the box as a speedy outside linebacker in 2016, Peppers saw an expanded role and made the most of his increased time around the football. By year's end, Peppers posted 72 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 11 pass deflections, four sacks, one interception and one forced fumble, but that is just on defense. Peppers was a more dangerous return man as a junior and upped his all-purpose yards to 751 with a kickoff return touchdown to boot.

However, as a true two-way player with additional talent as a return man, Peppers notched three rushing touchdowns and continually forced defenses to respect his threat as a runner in the Wildcat formation. As Forde mentioned, there were not many facets of the game that Peppers did not put his stamp on while wearing a winged helmet.

In 2015, CBS Sports and Sporting News both named Peppers to the All-America second-team, but the dynamic, game-changing player cleaned up in the award department after his junior season. In what would be his last year at Michigan, Peppers won the Lott IMPACT Trophy, Paul Hornung Award, was a consensus first-team All-American and stood as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Chuck Bednarik Award, Bronco Nagurski Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year.

In all, Peppers did a little bit of everything in Ann Arbor and parlayed his wildly apparent physical tools into a first round selection at No. 25 overall to the Cleveland Browns in the 2017 draft. Peppers spent two years in that organization before a trade sent him to the New York Giants prior to the 2019 season, a year in which the Michigan great produced 76 tackles, five tackles for loss, one interception and a return touchdown for his new team.

Peppers is joined on the BTN All-Decade team by Devin Bush, Jake Butt and Taylor Lewan.

What position did you expect Jabrill Peppers to be named at for the Big Ten Network's All-Decade team? In what phase of the game do you think Peppers made the greatest impact while in college? What is the strongest memory he created? Let us know! 

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