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Carolina Panthers

Julius Peppers on Dan Morgan, Brian Burns, and the career that put him in the Hall of Fame

240208 NFL Honors-198

CHARLOTTE— Much has been written about Julius Peppers, as a first ballot Hall of Famer. Much more will still come, leading up to this August's NFL Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony, lauding all that made Peppers one of the best in the game.

Following the 2024 class announcement this past week in Las Vegas, during NFL Honors, Julius Peppers finally got a chance to take a breath, take it in, asses his emotions around the celebration and put the honor in his own words. Now back home, Peppers met with local North Carolina media on Wednesday to talk about his career, his welcome to the Hall of Fame and more. Here are the highlights.

*This interview has been abridged for brevity and editing purposes

On whether there was any concern about being drafted to a 1-15 team and if he thought the team could get to the Super Bowl so quickly.

Peppers: "No, I didn't see it. I wasn't concerned. First of all, I wasn't concerned about coming to the team that was one and 15. I saw it as a challenge, as an opportunity to come in and be a part of building something. Nobody wants to go to Super Bowl champion already, I mean, I guess some people do but you wanna come in and work for it. But I couldn't, nobody could foresee the turnaround that we had going from 1-15 to winning a few more games that next year. And then (the second year), nobody could see that…we had a special group of guys that put in the work."

On whether he used the doubts during his draft process as motivation.

Peppers: "I heard all of those thing, and again, that was a little bit of fire, that added a little bit of fire to me, because I felt like I should have went number one. But it worked out that I was able to come here and I'm glad that Houston did what they did. But, that was motivation for me.

On what he saw, playing with a young Dan Morgan, that could lead to the linebacker becoming Panthers general manager.

Peppers: "I have a great confidence in Dan, as I did when I played. He was similar to Luke (Kuechly) in some ways where, you see this clean, nice, clean cut guy off the field, but then when they get on the field, they turn into a whole new person. This is like a whole new person that you see, that's really fierce, that's really passionate about the game. So that's how he approached it. And he was a great leader, he was a great communicator and I think he can handle it. I think he's been in that world for a while now. And I thought it was a great choice by (owner) Dave (Tepper) to bring Dan in. He knows the locker room, he knows the guys and, he's a Panther. So I think he's gonna take great pride in doing the job and doing it well."

2001: LB Dan Morgan - Miami (Fla.)

On what his favorite memory was, during his 10 seasons with the Panthers.

Peppers: "I gotta say the Super Bowl even though, we came up a little short. That was probably like the favorite moment, that week. And again, I talked about not necessarily being aware of what was happening at the time, just being a young player, second year playing in the league, getting to the Super Bowl thinking like, oh, this is it. Not that it was easy. But I thought, we got here. So, we probably gonna be back every year or every other year or something like that. So, not necessarily having that awareness at the time to realize how hard it was to get there.

"And we just played. We had a lot of fun during that season, a lot of great memories from that season. The Sam Mills thing with the 'Keep Pounding,' the game where we went to St. Louis and, and the Greatest Show on Turf, got a chance to knock them off. That was a great season; the NFC championship was on my birthday in (Philadelphia). So that was a great time. That was a great time for me and a lot of great memories that season."

On whether there was anything a coach or teammate said that stuck with him throughout his career.

Peppers: "I called John Fox yesterday. Coach Fox, who was my first coach there in Carolina. We talked for about, we talked for a while, for about 30-45 minutes, just talking and catching up and stuff like that. And he used to always have these sayings that he used to always tell us that I carry with me throughout my career, when I went to other places, even when I came back.

"One of the main things was, 'nobody's going to come to save us, nobody's going to come save you.' Just meaning that, you got to, if you're going through a hard time in the season, you're going through a tough period of time throughout the season, you got to figure out a way to get it done because nobody is gonna come and figure it out for you. You gotta figure it out for yourself.

"And I took that really throughout my career and whenever times got tough during the season and we went on the skid or whatever, I would always remind myself that nobody is going come save you. So just figure it out."

Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox prior to an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2009. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

On coming into a locker room as a rookie, with a lot of veteran leadership.

Peppers: "I think I came into a pretty good situation with great leaders, great men to learn from. I wasn't saying a lot because, you're a rookie like, be quiet, like don't, what are you talking about? So I just used to listen a lot and watch Mike Rucker, Brent Buck (Brentson Buckner), Mushin (Muhammad).

"To add to that, I look around the league now in the locker rooms now and it's like, I feel like that's one of the things that's missing in the locker room right now is that veteran guy. You might have one or two, but for the most part, you have one or two old heads in there and then it's the rest of it is all young guys. So, who are you really learning from? So I think that's the thing missing…I think that some of these teams could benefit from it."

On his impression of Brian Burns and his impact on the Panthers defense.

Peppers: "I traded a couple of texts with him a couple of days ago, he was congratulating me on the Hall of Fame and stuff like that. And we've been meaning to link up at some point just about those off the field things…that's where I come from. I come from, what's going on off the field, who's around you, what do you have going on? What's your support looking like off the field? Because I think that translates to on the field type of stuff. So I'm there…more for that kind of stuff, like the mentor or big brother kind of stuff.

"But like, as far as his game, I think he's one of the best. I think he's one of the best. He has all the tools, he has all of the talent. I hope we're able to keep him. I hope he stays. I hope we'd be able to keep him around for a long time."

On the moment he realized he could belong and thrive in the NFL.

Peppers: "I think it was during the first season, during the first couple of games. If I'm not mistaken, the very first game was against the Baltimore Ravens. The first regular season game was against the Baltimore Ravens; Ray Lewis, Deion Sanders was there at the time. Ed Reed was a rookie like me. But, the last play of that game, we had a blitz called and I came through, I got the sack. Well, actually it wasn't a sack, it was like a pass deflection and then Dan (Morgan) ended up catching it for an interception and that was to close out the game.So that in itself, that first game to be able to make a big play at the end of the game, gave me a big boost of confidence to let me know that I could do it."

View photos of defensive end Julius Peppers throughout his decorated NFL career.

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