Incoming 5-star recruit Jabrill Peppers has embraced the pressure that comes with being one of the highest-rated recruits in Michigan football history, declaring his intent "to be the best player to ever wear that maize and blue,” according to Jason Rubinstein of The Michigan Daily.
Peppers is expected to be a defensive starter as soon as he steps on campus, and speculation is rampant that he will also play on offense and special teams. He'll face intense scrutiny to be spectacular, and every mistake will draw the ire of opponents and even fans who are anxiously awaiting a superstar to lead Michigan back to the top of college football.
His talent and bravado have drawn comparisons to former Michigan Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, who has experience with the burden of high expectations.
Woodson, speaking last week at a fundraiser for CS Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, predicted that the pressure wouldn’t faze Peppers, as quoted by Mark Snyder in the Detroit Free Press. Woodson compared Peppers’ mindset to his own when he was a top recruit.
The expectations that people have for you, you already feel like you’re going to do those things, so the expectations and the pressure doesn’t mean anything.
That’s what I would see Jabrill coming in that mold, a guy who already sees himself as going to be great.
Brady Hoke has tried to downplay expectations for Peppers while acknowledging that he’s a special talent.
“Let him get in here and be a corner for a while before returning kicks,” said Hoke. “And possibly there might be a plan for him to play on offense.”
Peppers may have no shortage of confidence, but Woodson’s achievements will be difficult to match. He was the first defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy and led Michigan to a national championship before embarking on a successful NFL playing career. Woodson is on track to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame having been named to the Pro Bowl eight times, winning a Super Bowl and being named the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year.
He's also been successful off the field, donating $2 million to the construction of the children's hospital and creating his own brand of wine.
Peppers has embraced comparisons to Woodson, and after a disappointing 7-6 season Michigan sorely needs him to live up to his billing as one of the top recruits in the country.
Peppers may not win a Heisman Trophy his first year, but if he can lead Michigan to a victory over Michigan State or Ohio State, he'll be on his way to following in Woodson's footsteps while beginning to build a legacy of his own.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via press conferences or in person.