BEREA, Ohio -- New Cleveland Browns safety Jabrill Peppers got a rude welcome into the National Football League when in the weeks after being selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft following a standout career at the University of Michigan, he became the subject of sports talk fodder.
Last week, a now former employee at a local radio station in Cleveland spoke of Peppers being a habitual drug user, stating that he is “on the lean and the molly.” “The lean” is a drink containing codeine, Jolly Rancher candy and Sprite, while “molly” is a street name for ecstasy.
“People can say whatever they want to say,” Peppers said at rookie minicamp over the weekend. “This is my first time in Cleveland since they brought me out here, so I don’t know what she’s talking about. I just think people want to say what they say to make stories. I can’t do anything about that. I came here to play football and help this great organization get back to prominence.”
A Heisman Trophy finalist in 2016, Peppers played nearly everywhere for the University of Michigan Wolverines during the 2016 season, and that versatility led him to becoming the second first-round pick of the Browns in the 2017 NFL Draft last month.
And despite the recent rumors, Peppers is not letting such talk spoil the goal of making it to the NFL.
“No one’s going to take this moment away from me,” Peppers said. “I don’t care what it is. I’ve worked my whole life to get here. I’m happy to be here. I’m not going to let what people say about me ruin the best moment of my life. Are you kidding me? I’ve been talked about, hated on my whole life.
“That’s the society. I’ve been pretty much in the spotlight since I’ve been to Michigan, so I’m built for it. But that’s just society. Those who don’t like me use things like this to further their agenda and other people speculate. I can only control what I can control, and that’s being the best ballplayer and person that I can be.”
In three years at Michigan, Peppers made 86 solo tackles and assisted on 33 other stops, including 18.5 for lost yardage with three sacks.
Peppers intercepted one pass and defended 10 others in 12 games for the Wolverines during the 2016 season.
Additionally, Peppers accounted for 167 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries and a combined total of 570 return yards, as well as one punt-return score last fall.
“That’s the only thing they’re going to hear from here on out,” Peppers said of being talked about for his on-field exploits. “I don’t really get into things outside of football because that’s outside of my control. Like I said before, I never failed a drug test in my life, never been arrested, so people want to speculate on that for other reasons, which we all know what those reasons are, and so be it.
“I’m just here to be the best person and football player I can be, learn from the vets, the great coaches and the coaching staff and that’s what I intend to do.”