Carolina Panthers legend Julius Peppers is no stranger to accolades and on Wednesday, he moved a step closer to the ultimate reward: the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In his first year of eligibility, the defensive end is one of 15 players that will possibly be selected for enshrinement with the Class of 2024.
Peppers is fourth on the all-time sacks list with 159.5 over his 17-year NFL career. Only Reggie White, Kevin Greene, and Bruce Smith are ahead of him and all three of them are Pro Football Hall of Famers so one could only surmise that bodes well for Peppers.
The nine-time Pro Bowler is the only player in league history to record at least 100 sacks and 10 or more interceptions (he finished with 11) and is No. 2 all-time in forced fumbles with 52. He was voted All-Pro six times and holds a rare distinction as one of the players in NFL history to be named to two All-Decade teams, receiving that honor for the 2000s and the 2010s. Only 29 individuals (players and coaches) have ever earned that honor twice, and the only non-special teams players who haven’t made the Hall of Fame from that group are Peppers, quarterback Tom Brady, and coach Bill Belichick (who are not yet eligible).
Other than Peppers, tight end Antonio Gates is the only other first-year eligible nominee to make it to the Finalist round. The other 13 finalists are: cornerback Eric Allen, defensive end Jared Allen, offensive tackle Willie Anderson, guard Jahri Evans, defensive end Dwight Freeney, safety Rodney Harrison, receiver/returner Devin Hester, wide receiver Torry Holt, wide receiver Andre Johnson, running back Fred Taylor, wide receiver Reggie Wayne, linebacker Patrick Willis, and safety Darren Woodson.
Of that group, a maximum of five modern players will be enshrined this year. Voting will take place in January and the class will be announced at the NFL Honors show during Super Bowl week.