When Jabrill Peppers enrolled at the University of Michigan, the hype that was surrounding him was reaching a fever pitch. "Could he be the next Charles Woodson? Is he the guy to finally put Michigan back on the map?" some fans would ask themselves.
The season came and went without Peppers being able to see much of the field due to injury. Now healthy, Peppers viewed the lost season as a wake-up call. Football might not be around tomorrow, so you better appreciate it today.
"It's definitely been a learning experience and I had to grow up a lot," Peppers said. "No one is going to feel sorry for you at this point. Yeah I got hurt, so what? I still have to be a great teammate and still have to help the guys in any way I can. It's just about maturing, I had to take a minute to sit back and think 'wow, this could actually be taken from me'."
For Peppers, being naturally gifted at football is his thing. A high ranking player out of high school, football was supposed to be his vessel to greatness. With that endangered, Peppers could find solace that his degree can still take him to greater heights.
"The thought of playing football never crossed my mind until I got hurt," he added. "I couldn't be out there with my brothers and that hurt me more. That's why I feel grateful enough to be at university like Michigan where my degree will mean so much more out there in the real world. If anything, I'm going to be getting a great degree.
"It made me take a step back and look at life and see that it can actually be taken from me and to never take anything for granted."
Now back to full health and spring practices out of the way, Peppers was able to enjoy the time with his new head coach so far.
"It's great," Peppers said. "He's fiery, he's crazy, like me, we definitely get along very well. His staff that he put in is a great staff, great, knowledgeable guys and teachers. We're definitely moving in the right direction."
Throughout the spring, Peppers has been listed a vocal leader on the defense. Harbaugh even went as far as saying that he was having an "A-plus" spring. Part of that improvement over the spring? Communication, something that all great defenses need according to Peppers.
"Great defenses communicate," he said. "You gotta make sure all the guys are lined up out there. As a safety, you have to know what everyone has to do and not just your job. I talk a little smack to get the guys riled up."
Peppers was switched over to safety during the offseason without a single complaint. Although playing some safety in high school, Peppers says that he is ready to play the position and do whatever is best for the team. Whether he can finally live up to hype this season remains to be seen despite being labeled as a difference maker.
Even though he won't call himself a game-changer, Peppers will still try to bring the best out of people around him.
"I wouldn’t necessarily say I am a difference maker but I can definitely make an impact during the game," he said. "Just by me playing a lot of positions and the enthusiasm I bring. Just trying to bring the best out of the guys around you. Not letting them accept mediocrity, getting on them when I know they can do better and they get on me the same way."
Now with a second chance, the sky is the limit for Peppers. With an enthusiasm unknown to mankind and a clean bill of health, the defensive backs are now in a better place with him out on the playing field.