Born: October 4, 1995
Town: East Orange
Jabrill Peppers was born October 4, 1995 in East Orange to Ivory Bryant and Terry Peppers. Jabrill was raised by his mother but his father was a strong force in his young life. Terry recognized in his son tremendous speed, strength and focus, and taught him the finer points of football as a boy. When Jabrill was 7, his father was arrested on gang-related charges and sent to prison. Six years later, his older brother, Don, was shot and killed in a Newark restaurant. He, too, had joined a gang.
By this time, Jabrill had dedicated himself to football. He was on the radar of every high school coach in North Jersey, and a year later attended Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey. He was a starting safety as a freshman and a star running back as a sophomore. The Ironmen won state titles both years and were ranked #1 in the nation by USA Today in 2011. Jabrill was as successful in the classroom as he was on the field, carrying an A– average throughout high school. Jabrill transferred to Paramus Catholic in 2012 and led the Paladins to state championship as a junior and senior. He was widely regarded as one of the best two-way players in New Jersey. He also won the 100 and 200 meter dashes at the 2013 Meet of Champions. His personal best in the 100 was 10.51 seconds.
Jabrill, a fan of Charles Woodson, had his sights set on playing for the Michigan Wolverines. The school was happy to oblige with a full ride. He made that dream happen. Leg injuries limited him to just three games as a freshman in 2014 so coach Brady Hoke decided to red-short him. Jabrill returned to the lineup in 2015 and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, as well as earning all-conference defensive and special teams honors. He was the Walter Camp Player of the Week after a dominant performance against Colorado, recording nine tackles and returning a punt for a touchdown. He played linebacker and defensive back.
In 2016, Jabrill turned it up another notch. He won the Nagurski and Butkus awards for his defensive play and was named Return Specialist of the Year. He was also a unanimous All-American and winner of the Hornung Award as the most versatile player in college football. Jabrill had 72 tackles—including four sacks—returned 31 punts and kickoffs, and scored three TD’s on offense. He lined up at 15 different positions during the season. He was a Heisman finalist, finishing fifth.
Jabrill decided to skip his final two college seasons and declared his eligibility for the 2017 NFL Draft. He worked out as both a linebacker and defensive back at the league combine. His physical strength was off the charts and he recorded the fastest time in the 40 among all the linebackers. The Cleveland Browns took Jabrill with the 25th pick in the first round. Jabrill nailed down a starting safety position in camp, as well as establishing himself as the teams primary punt returner.
In his NFL debut, Jabrill tied for the team lead with four solo tackles in a 21–18 loss to the Steelers. He returned three punts, one for 25 yards. He played every snap on defense and was a starter the rest of the season. He intercepted one pass as a rookie and saw time on both the punt and kickoff return squads. The Browns went winless in 2017, but turned things around in 2018; after an in-season coaching change, the team lost only two games in the second half. Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield developed quickly and the Cleveland defense went from second-worst in the NFL to 21st. The D did not allow more than two touchdowns in a game after Week 10. Jabrill had one INT again and finished fourth on the Browns with 57 tackles.