Friday, December 30, 2016

A tale of Jabrill Peppers

College football fans know that Jabrill Peppers plays for the University of Michigan. They also know he's quite the standout athlete and has been since high school. Peppers has garnered many awards along the way and was even a finalist for the Heisman trophy.

But chances are he's played his last down for the Wolverines. Peppers, a junior, has made it known he intends to declare for the NFL draft when the current season is done. And done it is for the Wolverines, just losing 33-32 to Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Not a particularly good note to go out on.

Thing is, JP wasn't sure he wanted to play in the Orange Bowl at all. Projected as a mid first round draft pick, a lot of money was potentially at stake. Had he suffered a major injury playing in a "free" game, it could well affect his financial future -- and not in a positive way.

While at Michigan, JP showed he was a very versatile player on the gridiron. He could seemingly do it all. Safety, cornerback, linebacker, kick and punt returner, occasional plays on offense as a receiver or running back, and even the quarterback in the "wildcat" formation. It is seldom such a gifted athlete comes along and UM was fortunate to have him indeed.

However, despite that versatility, Peppers wasn't known as being outstanding at any one position. That would be a concern for pro scouts and their teams, due to the highly specialized nature of the NFL. If they draft this guy, what position do they put him at and how good will he be there? In that respect, taking JP is a roll of the dice.

But how could he let down his Michigan teammates and fans in the biggest game of the season? A dilemma. In the end, Peppers decided to suit up and play.

And BANG. Out he went with a hamstring injury -- severity unknown. Salt to pour on the wound of the loss. Just like that, his pro stock likely took a nosedive. The pros aren't real big on drafting damaged goods, especially a multi-'tweener like Peppers with no defined position.

In a perfect world, he'll heal up just fine, get drafted high and become an instant millionaire as a star player for some team in the NFL. But that's hardly a given. It could just as easily go the other way.

So did he do the "right" thing by playing in the Orange Bowl? Hindsight says no. But going in, opinion was likely near unanimous that he should play. The Maize and Blue needed him, dammit. And Peppers had never been injury prone before. What were the chances something bad might happen in just one more college game?

Here's wishing him the best, but somewhere out there, when JP's hammy gave way, it no doubt sent a message to a lot of other college players that will someday have to consider the same dilemma he did. To play or not to play with millions potentially on the line.

Or it might just be, in light of the injury, that Peppers will reconsider his professional ambitions and return to Michigan for his senior season. A good move? Depends. The school, team, and fans would surely love it, and JP would likely be in the Heisman mix again.

On the other hand, that's a gauntlet of 12 or 13 more college games to play when something truly bad is always just one play away. You never know what fate could hold and why tempt it --  gratis no less?

It will be interesting to see how this plays out........

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