Peppers congratulates Jackson on Heisman selection

Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Michigan's Jabrill Peppers answers questions during a news conference before attending the Heisman Trophy award ceremony Saturday in New York.

Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers was not considered this week a favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.

That made no difference for the versatile Peppers, who played hybrid linebacker, returned kicks and played offense this season. His name was not called, but he celebrated as though he had won when Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson was announced as the winner.

Peppers was one of five finalists – and the only defensive player – to attend Saturday’s night’s Heisman presentation in New York, joining Jackson, who won the Maxwell Award for the nation’s top player, and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, winner of the Davey O’Brien national quarterback award, and Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook from Oklahoma.

As soon as Jackson’s name was called, Peppers, sitting to his left, immediately smiled, got up and embraced him.

Peppers finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting. Jackson had 2,144 votes, Watson had 1,524, Mayfield 361, Westbrook 209 and Peppers had 208.

Michigan has three Heisman Trophy winners – Tom Harmon in 1940, Desmond Howard in 1991 and Charles Woodson in 1997. Howard, celebrating the 25th anniversary of his Heisman win by cutting his hair in a fade as he is wearing in his Heisman portrait, was in attendance along with Woodson.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh attended the ceremony along with defensive coordinator Don Brown and linebackers coach Chris Partridge, who was Peppers’ coach in high school at Paramus (N.J.) Catholic.

Peppers did not go undecorated this week as the college football awards were handed out. Peppers, who has played 933 snaps and 15 positions this season for sixth-ranked Michigan, exhibiting his versatility, earned the Hornung Award given to the game’s most versatile player. This season he had 726 plays on defense this season, 154 on special teams and 53 on offense.

He is tied for second on the team with a career-best 72 tackles this season, including a team-leading 16 tackles for loss. He had four sacks, one interception and a forced fumble. Peppers is fourth nationally with 14.8 yards per punt return and scored a touchdown. He also has 10 kickoff returns for 260 yards. On offense, Peppers has 167 yards on 27 carries and scored three touchdowns. He also had two catches during the regular season.

Peppers gets Mid-Atlantic support in Heisman balloting

Harbaugh, who declared in October that Peppers should be a Heisman winner and said at the time if there’s a better player in the country, he didn’t know who that was, said this week that Peppers does anything on the field he’s asked to do.

“Whether it’s play safety or corner or nickel or linebacker or cornerback or slot receiver or running back, punt returner, kick returner,” Harbaugh said this week during a news conference to advance the Orange Bowl, in which the Wolverines will face Florida State on Dec. 30. “He does it all without hesitation, without flinching. And he does it to the best of his God-given ability every time.

“He’s the ultimate team player. His teammates appreciate him for that. And we’re really happy for his success.”

Maryland coach D.J. Durkin, who was Michigan’s defensive coordinator last season, was in town this week at the Lions facility this week to promote the Quick Lane Bowl that the Terps are playing in against Boston College.

Durkin said Peppers has an enormous upside in the NFL and clearly has proven he’s one of the best in the college game.

“He plays receiver, quarterback, running back, linebacker safety, he played corner for us last year, and he was good at all of them,” Durkin said this week. “There’s not many guys, if any, that can do all those things. What are the criteria for Heisman? I don’t know. Is he one of the best players in college football? Yes. He certainly belongs there.”


Finalist voting for the Heisman Trophy, with first-, second- and third-place votes and total points (voting on 3-2-1 points basis):

Lamar Jackson, Louisville – 526 first-place votes, 251 second-place votes, 64 third-place votes (2,144 points)

Deshaun Watson, Clemson – 269, 302, 113 (1,524)

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma – 26, 72, 139 (361)

Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma – 7, 49, 90 (209)

Jabrill Peppers, Michigan – 11, 45, 85 (208)