Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers Named 2016 Paul Hornung Award Winner
Defensive Stalwart who Returns Kicks and Plays Offense Earns Most Versatile Player Honor
Louisville, Ky. – Wednesday, December 7, 2016 – University of Michigan third-year sophomore Jabrill Peppers, who this year became the first person to earn Big Ten defensive player of the year, linebacker of the year and return specialist of the year, was named winner of the seventh annual Paul Hornung Award presented by Texas Roadhouse. The Louisville Sports Commission and Paul Hornung present the Award to the most versatile player in major college football.
Peppers and his family will be honored on March 7, 2017, at the annual Paul Hornung Award Banquet presented by KentuckyOne Health at the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville.
One of the most-gifted athletes in the storied history of Michigan football, Peppers played 15 different positions on three sides of the ball on a Wolverine team ranked sixth in the final College Football Playoff rankings and headed to the Capital One Orange Bowl for a Dec. 30 matchup against Florida State.
“It means a lot to me to win this award,” said Jabrill. “You definitely want to do as much as possible, and you want to do it as well as you can. I think there are a lot of guys who could have won this award, so it’s just a tremendous honor to be the winner and to represent the Paul Hornung Award. I’m just going to keep to trying to get better, keep working on my faults and do whatever I have to do to help my team.”
Primarily a linebacker, Peppers also made his presence felt as a cornerback, nickel corner, safety and free safety on a Wolverine defense that ranked in the top 15 nationally in every major statistical category. He led the team with 16 tackles for loss and eight quarterback hurries, and was second on the team with 72 total tackles and four sacks.
On special teams, Peppers led the Big Ten and was fifth nationally with 14.8 yards per punt return with one touchdown and averaged 25 yards per kickoff return. He consistently improved the Wolverines’ field position by fair catching punts in tough circumstances and by forcing opponents into short kicks and punts because of his explosive return capabilities. He also played gunner and hold-up on the punt team.
On offense, Peppers played wildcat quarterback, running back, slot and wide receiver. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry, and was the Wolverine’s fifth leading rusher with 161 yards and three touchdowns.
“Jabrill loves competition and has a relentless desire to be great,” said Jim Harbaugh, Michigan’s J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach. “We are honored that Jabrill has been selected as the Paul Hornung Award winner, an achievement fitting of his versatility on the football field. Jabrill is explosive, aggressive, intelligent and plays the game with great enthusiasm. He has always wanted what is best for the team and has been willing to accept any role that is asked of him. We are very proud of this achievement.”
Following his performance in Michigan’s 45-28 come-from-behind win over Colorado, where he made nine tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and accounted for 204 all-purpose yards, Pepper’s was the first person ever named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week and Specialist of the Week for the same game. In the Wolverine’s 32-23 road win over arch-rival Michigan State, he made eight tackles, including two tackles for loss; returned a fumbled PAT for a two-point defensive score; carried the ball four times for 24 yards and a touchdown; and returned a punt and a kickoff.
“Jabrill Peppers is a throwback to the time I played,” Paul Hornung said. “He’s fearless on the field and uses his tremendous athletic skills and determination to play any position to help Michigan win football games. Jabrill is a fantastic addition to our list of Paul Hornung Award winners.”
Peppers is Heisman Trophy Finalist, a candidate for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award and a finalist for the Maxwell Award for college player of the year, Bednarik Award for defensive player of the year, Lott IMPACT Trophy for the best defensive player in character and performance, and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy for outstanding defensive player. Peppers also was named a semi-finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award for the best defensive back.
Peppers was chosen as Paul Hornung Award winner from among four finalists by a 16-member national selection committee comprised of sports journalists, coaches and retired NFL players; online fan voting accounted for a 17th vote. All votes were independently tabulated by regional accounting firm Dean Dorton, one of the largest accounting and advisory firms in Kentucky, with offices in Louisville and Lexington.
The other 2016 Paul Hornung Award finalists were: Adoree’ Jackson (Southern California); Christian McCaffrey (Stanford); and Dede Westbrook (Oklahoma).
Christian McCaffrey of Stanford won the award in 2015 after breaking the NCAA record for all-purpose yards, finishing with 3,864; Shaq Thompson of Washington won the award in 2014 as a two-way player, earning first team All-American honors at linebacker and finishing as the Husky’s second-leading rusher at tailback; Odell Beckham Jr. of LSU won the award in 2013 after finishing the season ranked second in the nation and first in the Southeastern Conference with 2,222 all-purpose yards and 185.2 average yards per game; Tavon Austin of West Virginia won the award in 2012 as one of two players in the nation with more than 500 yards in three different categories (rushing, receiving and kick returns); Brandon Boykin of Georgia won the award in 2011 after excelling on defense, offense and special teams; and Owen Marecic of Stanford, a two-way starter and All Pac-10 performer at fullback and linebacker, won the inaugural Paul Hornung Award in 2010.
Past winners and finalists who have made their mark in the NFL include Boykin (Philadelphia /Pittsburgh), Austin (Los Angeles Rams), Beckham Jr. (New York Giants), Thompson (Carolina Panthers), Ole Miss’s Robert Nkemdiche (Arizona Cardinals), Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah (Detroit Lions), Stanford’s Ty Montgomery (Green Bay Packers), Missouri’s Marcus Murphy (New Orleans Saints), Western Kentucky’s Antonio Andrews (Tennessee Titans), Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel (Cleveland Browns), Arizona State’s Marion Grice (Arizona Cardinals), Kentucky’s Randall Cobb (Green Bay Packers), Oregon’s LaMichael James (Miami Dolphins) and TCU’s Jeremy Kerley (San Francisco 49ers / New York Jets).