A decision that seemed inevitable for months is now official. After a season in which his versatility and explosive play landed him in New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist, redshirt sophomore linebacker Jabrill Peppers announced Tuesday that he will forgo his remaining two years of eligibility at Michigan and enter the NFL Draft.
Peppers informed Sports Illustrated of his decision Tuesday, later sending out a tweet thanking the Wolverines and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh “for the memories and preparation.”
Immediately following the Wolverines’ Orange Bowl loss to Florida State on Dec. 30 — which Peppers was forced to sit out after suffering a hamstring injury the day before — a visibly upset Peppers had told reporters he would take as long as he could to make a decision about his future.
“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” Peppers reiterated to SI on Tuesday. “I’m choosing between cementing my legacy as a college player and starting my pro legacy. It’s something you dream of when you were a kid. I was torn between the two.”
He finally came to a decision over the weekend while at home in New Jersey and informed Harbaugh on Monday.
Some questions linger about where Peppers will fit in at the professional level. He primarily played safety in 2015 and linebacker in 2016, and he also took snaps as a slot corner, running back and punt returner, among other positions, but he figures to be a surefire first-round pick in April’s draft. ESPN’s Todd McShay projects him among the top 10 players available.
“All the questions will be answered,” Peppers told SI. “And they’re good questions. I think I’ll be able to show that I can play one position well when I focus all my time and attention to it. I’m really excited to focus on my back pedal, flipping the hips and my coverage. I’m going to really hone in on that and iron out my weaknesses. I know my weaknesses and I know what I’m good at and need to improve on.”
Peppers finishes his Michigan career with 125 tackles (21.5 for loss), four sacks, a forced fumble and an interception on defense. He also posted 239 rushing yards, 82 receiving yards and five offensive touchdowns, as well as 993 kick/punt return yards with one punt return touchdown.