Everyone is in awe of Julius Peppers when they encounter him.
“Probably the biggest human being I've seen in my life on the football field,” Cam Newton said when Peppers came back to Carolina in 2017.
And Newton is one of few human beings who can physically measure up to Peppers. But even he was amazed by Peppers’ freakish stature as a 6-foot-7, 295-pound defensive end.
They played against each other on four occasions, twice when Peppers was a Bear in 2011 and 2012 and twice when he was a Packer in 2014 and 2015.
Peppers finished with 3.0 sacks of Newton, one of 78 quarterbacks victimized on his remarkable resume.
Newton is in good company on that list, which includes the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Mike Vick and Tom Brady – some quarterbacks you may have heard of.
Those quarterbacks all took the time to reflect on their battles against one of the most fearsome pass-rushers the game has ever seen.
When Peppers signed with the Bears in 2010, one of his primary objectives became terrorizing Rodgers, quarterback of the rival Packers.
“Julius is one of the greatest competitors that I’ve ever gotten to go against,” Rodgers said. “The stuff he did on the field is incredible.”
After trying desperately to avoid Peppers for four years, Rodgers welcomed him to the Packers with open arms in 2013. They shared the same locker room for three years and became close friends along the way.
“As a teammate, you couldn’t ask for a better guy to go to battle with. He is the consummate professional, a guy who went about his work in a quiet manner, but had an incredible amount of respect and clout in the locker room,” Rodgers said.
“One of the all-time greatest players at any position in the NFL. One of the most athletic players to ever play that position. Revolutionized the game, I think, at outside linebacker/defensive end, with his ability to come off the edge and make plays.”
The most sacks Peppers recorded against a particular quarterback is eight, and that honor is shared by two men: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, and Rodgers.
“He was an absolute force,” Rodgers said.
Right behind Rodgers on Peppers’ most frequently sacked list is Vick, who quarterbacked the NFC South rival Falcons from 2001-06. Peppers sacked the ultra-athletic Vick seven times.
“Peppers was one of the guys who gave me the most problems,” said Vick, who used his speed and elusiveness to terrorize defenses. “He’ll go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game.”
Vick had no trouble running away from defensive linemen. He would often breeze by to nullify their rush. But escaping the grasp of Peppers was a different story.
“As an athlete, you don’t get a guy who is 6-6, 295 pounds who can move the way he can move,” Vick said. “He’s been a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. I wish he wasn’t in my division. We would have won more games when I was in Atlanta. But the guy can do things that are uncanny.”
Tom Brady embodies sustained excellence at the quarterback position.
And it’s the steady production over the course of 17 seasons that impresses him most about Peppers.
“His productivity is what always amazed me,” said Brady, who entered the league two years before Peppers. “Always a fearsome pass rusher. I was happy to avoid some of those sacks, but not all of 'em. He definitely got me a few times.”
Three to be exact.
No shame in that. In a way, it’s a point of pride to have tangled with greatness. It’s why Brady recalls those hits from Peppers with both a smile and a tremendous amount of respect.
“He was a high pick and he had such high expectations. So few guys actually live up to that, and he did in every way,” Brady said.
“What an amazing player over the course of a long period of time. An incredible career.”
View 90 photos of the legendary defensive end from his time in a Panthers uniform.