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Football Player Takes UNC To Basketball's Final Four

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INDIANAPOLIS — A Tar Heel gridiron star is making noise on the basketball court.

Julius Peppers was such a large running back coming out of Southern Nash High School thatThe University of North Carolinarecruited him as a defensive end. Now, he does his running over blockers on his way to the quarterback.

However, Peppers did not grow up on the football field. Basketball was his first sport. During summer pickup games in Chapel Hill, he made an impression.

"I played with him in the summer and early in the preseason, when we played a lot of pickup," says UNC guard Ed Cota. "I knew what he was capable of doing out there."

Coach Guthridge says the best recruiter of Peppers was Cota.

"He kept telling me how good he was in the summer pickup games," Guthridge says. "Julius has been a godsend to our team. We wouldn't be where we are right now without Julius."

During the NCAA tournament, Peppers has been the equivalent of two players coming off the bench. He is a strong guy who will not be pushed around and an athletic power forward who can out-finesse his opponents.

"I bring a little bit of athleticism to the team," Peppers says. "I also bring some initiative. I'm not very vocal, but when I do say something, they listen because I don't talk much."

UNC guard Joseph Forte says Peppers is the best athlete he has ever seen in his life.

"The sad part is he's just playing this game for fun," Forte says.

Football is Peppers' main business, but his other team is going fine without him at spring practice. Peppers and the other Tar Heels will face the Florida Gators in the NCAA semifinals on Saturday.


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