Jabrill Peppers is heading to New York.
One day after the Michigan football team learned it would be spending the end of December at the Orange Bowl, the Wolverines’ do-it-all standout was announced as one of five finalists for the Heisman Trophy.
Other finalists included Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Clemson’s DeShaun Watson and Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook.
After a standout redshirt freshman campaign, Peppers surged to the forefront of the college football world as a redshirt sophomore. Playing as a linebacker, safety, nickelback, running back, slot receiver and wildcat quarterback, Peppers made an impact all over the field for the sixth-ranked Wolverines.
He tallied 15 tackles for loss, four sacks, an interception, a punt-return touchdown, three rushing touchdowns and 751 all-purpose yards.
A stellar start to the season buoyed many of those numbers. In the month of September alone, he recorded 9.5 tackles for loss, returned a punt for a touchdown and totaled a whopping 332 all-purpose yards, setting the stage for early Heisman hype.
That hype reached a boiling point at Rutgers, when Peppers ran for two touchdowns in his home state of New Jersey. After the game, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh declared that Peppers should be in New York for the Heisman ceremony. Now, he will be.
Jackson, a quarterback from Louisville, is considered the favorite to win the award after a year in which he tallied 51 total touchdowns. Twenty-one of those scores came on the ground.
Jackson and the Cardinals were long projected to face off against Peppers and the Wolverines in the Orange Bowl, but after Louisville lost its season finale to Kentucky, Florida State earned the berth instead.
Watson, a returning finalist from a year ago, came on strong late to clinch another standout season for the Tigers. Playing against Virginia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game, Watson’s stellar passing — particularly on third downs — kept the Hokies at bay and sent his team to the College Football Playoff.
The Sooners had two finalists, sending a tandem to New York that would have been hard to separate. Mayfield and Westbrook were as dynamic a combo as existed in college football.
Westbrook hauled in 16 touchdowns for Oklahoma, and Mayfield threw 38, limiting himself to just eight interceptions.
As a primarily defensive player, Peppers is not likely to take home the trophy from New York, though the most recent defensive player to win the award also went to Michigan — Charles Woodson in 1997.
Desmond Howard (1991) and Tom Harmon (1940) are the other Wolverines to win the award.