North Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers knew he would have to miss the first couple of weeks of spring practice because he was filling in as the backup power forward on the Tar Heels' basketball team. But North Carolina's unexpected run to the Final Four after a subpar regular season forced the 6'6" Peppers to change his plans. By the time basketball was over, the football team had only three practices left, and Peppers didn't suit up. Football coach Carl Torbush isn't too concerned; he believes Peppers, who will be a redshirt sophomore next fall, gained more from playing in the Final Four than he would have from spring ball. Peppers agrees. "Leadership," he says. "It will help me there. Oh, and we went through a lot of adversity, and we kept working. I'm going to try to carry that to the football field—never get down when something gets bad."
Something gained, but something lost: Peppers weighs 265 pounds, down 13 from the end of football season. After taking three weeks off to rest, he will return to the weight room this week to bulk up.
Peppers says life in the paint has similarities to life on the line of scrimmage, where he started all II games last fall and made 50 tackles, a team-leading 10 of them for a loss. In both sports, he says, "I'm trying to stay low and not give any ground."
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