Jabrill Peppers was the complete opposite of what he is on the field while at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach on Sunday night.
Peppers, the do-everything spark plug for the Michigan Wolverines, continually yawned as he went through the activities leading up to the 13th annual Lott IMPACT Trophy banquet. This isn’t to say that he wasn’t impressed with the honor of being a finalist and eventually the winner. The guy was just tired.
Peppers was amid a whirlwind as he arrived in Newport Beach. He went through a crazy experience of traveling for awards appearances during 10 days, showing up in Charlotte, Atlanta, New York and Newport Beach.
He was up for the Heisman in New York on Saturday night. And the next night he was in Newport Beach. When the week was over, he went back to Ann Arbor, Mich. with two awards, the Paul Hornung, for the nation’s most versatile player (he played 15 different positions this season) and the Lott, for being the most impactful defensive player of high character.
The Lott has had some great winners in its 13 years, including J.J. Watt, Luke Kuechly and DeMeco Ryans, who was in attendance on Sunday. Peppers will most likely carve out a great career in the NFL as well. Peppers is the first player to be named Big Ten Conference defensive player of the year, linebacker of the year and return specialist of the year.
Peppers, at times, appeared drowsy, yearning for sleep, as he posed for photos before the banquet. Yet he remained gracious and courteous while in the receiving line as he talked to fans during a cocktail hour.
One Michigan fan brought a gold baseball cap for Peppers to sign. Peppers didn’t reject any selfies and never showed that yawn when he talked to those in attendance.
“It still hasn’t hit me yet,” Peppers told me of his thoughts after meeting one of his idols, Lott. “He’s been someone that I try to model my game after.”
Peppers was definitely deserving of the Lott Trophy on the field, but the trophy is also for IMPACT, Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity.
Peppers, who will play with Michigan against Florida State in the Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 30, proved versatile and excellent as a linebacker (72 tackles, 16 tackles for losses), punt returner (14.8 yard average), kick returner and occasional offensive threat (167 yards and three touchdowns).
The Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation will present a $25,000 check to the general scholarship fund at Michigan. The other finalists for the award included Jonathan Allen of Alabama, Adoree’ Jackson of USC and Weston Steelhammer of Air Force. Each of those schools will receive a check for $5,000 for its general scholarship fund.
The night was also special for Terry Donahue, the Balboa Island resident and former UCLA football coach. Donahue was given an honorary Lott trophy as he was honored for his work with the California Showcase, an annual tryout for high school football players to receive financial aid to play college football.
Donahue truly loves his work with the California Showcase. He had many people to thank, including the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation, which was an initial sponsor four years ago.
“We’ve had 500 players who have received financial aid through the California Showcase,” Donahue said with enthusiasm. “We have also totaled over $13 million in scholarships and financial aid for those players. That’s some incredible work.”
Mike White, the former Raiders coach who also coached at Cal, has become a close friend of Donahue’s as both live on Balboa Island. They are among a group that rides bikes together along the boardwalk from Newport Beach to Huntington Beach. They take the ferry from the island to the beach near Balboa Pier.
White, who is on the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation with Donahue, has also admired Donahue’s work with the California Showcase.
“I think in whatever he has done you can tell that he puts his all into it,” White said of Donahue. “You can see that he has done the homework and the research.”
One of the greatest aspects of the California Showcase is that it is free for the high school players. Donahue also smiles when he knows that the California Showcase is changing the lives of the young athletes.
Jackson nails it
Adoree’ Jackson did not win the Lott Trophy, but the USC star defensive back aptly described the festivities that come during the weekend of the banquet.
Jackson and the other finalists get to see the best of Newport Beach and they experience some fine dining at the Pacific Club.
They also got a taste of the local life in Newport Beach. They had brunch on Sunday morning at the Stag Bar near Newport Pier.
“It’s high end, but low key,” Jackson said to describe his weekend experience with the Lott IMPACT Trophy award activities.
You could easily tell that Jackson and the other finalists really enjoyed themselves and were excited to meet Lott. Jackson had already met Lott, but he appeared just as excited to speak with him again.