RALEIGH — Julius Peppers described himself as "humbled" Friday night when he was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
But he also has enough self-awareness to know that it's not likely to be the last Hall of Fame on his resume.
The former Panthers defensive end is a finalist for the College Football Hall of Fame's 2022 class, and will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2024.
It seems inevitable that he'd find his way to both, but Peppers was fully present for his most recent award, appreciative of the honor in his home state.
"People talk about that all the time, and I hear about it all the time," Peppers said. "It's not something I expect. I'm hopeful for it. I live in the moment now. If it happens, it happens. It's a high probability it happens, but right now it's about this night and the North Carolinians I'm joining."
When the time comes for Peppers to be discussed for a place in Canton, it probably doesn't need to be a long discussion.
He retired with 159.5 sacks, the fourth-most in league history. The fact that former Dolphins pass-rusher Jason Taylor (seventh on the list with 139.5 career sacks) was a first-ballot selection in 2017 suggests that Peppers' wait won't be a long one.
"Like I said, I've never taken things for granted or assumed things," he said. "I don't operate that way. Whether it's the first time, second time, third, or whenever, I'll be grateful."
Peppers is also cognizant of the Panthers' unique place on the sack list. The second and third spots on the all-time sack list are held by men who finished their careers with Carolina — Reggie White and Kevin Greene. He also knows his spot on the list is reasonably secure, since no active player is within 50 sacks of him (32-year-old Von Miller leads all active players with 106.0).
"That's cool," Peppers said of the Panthers' place on the list. "It's a neat little thing, a lot of people may not know. It's neat to be part of that group.
"I think I've got a little time before I get bumped out of the top five, so we'll enjoy it while it lasts."
Of course, some football historians might nudge him a little farther down the list. Recently, a team of researchers from Pro-Football-Reference.com added some interesting context to the existing stats.
The NFL only began counting sacks as an official statistic in 1982. But the team from PFR used all available record-keeping to add what they consider sack totals going back to the 1960 season.
The league does not consider those official at this time. But if they did, Peppers would slide on the all-time list, with Deacon Jones (173.5) passing him and Greene as well. Even on that unofficial revised list, Peppers would be fifth, still ahead of players such as Jack Youngblood and Alan Page.
When that research was mentioned to him recently, Peppers said he'd have no qualms moving down a spot on the list for a player such as Jones, the South Carolina State product who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980.
"That would be the right thing to do," Peppers said simply.
Of course, the fact a discussion of Julius Peppers' place in the football annals includes a reference to Deacon Jones also paints a pretty clear picture of where Peppers stands in the historical record.
He knows that. He's secure in it. And he's willing to wait for the time when it becomes official.
View 90 photos of the legendary defensive end from his time in a Panthers uniform.