The problem for opponents this season has been that Victor Peppers has an advantage they can’t possibly know. The film they have on Forsyth Central’s junior linebacker is just a blur of tackles, a nightmare of quarterback hurries, a whirlwind of tackles for loss. Opponents see the end result and devise plans on how to stop this force.
Peppers has just one plan going up to the line of scrimmage, the only one he really needs to know whether the opponent is going to run or pass and whether the play will go to the right or left. He looks at the feet of the opponents’ left guard.
"Usually the guard tells you where the play is going to go," Peppers said. "If they’re lining their feet you can tell they’re going to pull."
He knows this because virtually his entire prep football career was spent at left guard. Bulldogs first-year coach Shane Williamson arrived this season and promptly moved Peppers to linebacker. Now Peppers uses his past as an offensive lineman to help him be arguably the county’s top tackling force.
Peppers leads Forsyth County with 103 tackles going into the Bulldogs’ season finale against Osborne this Friday to go along with nine tackles for loss and two sacks. He’s caused two fumbles and broken up two passes. He’s had double digit tackles in five of Central’s nine games.
This is where Peppers wanted to be all along. Last year he was a first-team all-region offensive lineman, but Peppers always thought his size and speed fit best on defense. So he relished the chance to begin Central’s season-opener at North Forsyth where he felt he belonged.
Though the Bulldogs lost 31-0, Peppers made an immediate impact – 17 total tackles, including 11 solo.
"It felt good," Peppers said. "The first game, I got the first tackle. I’ve just kept getting a lot of tackles. Next thing I know, I’m the leading tackler in the county."
Indeed, Peppers kept going – 12 tackles against South Forsyth, 20 against Dawson County, 11 against Sprayberry.
This isn’t without precedent in Peppers’ family. His brother, Demaris, is a freshman defensive lineman at the University of Minnesota out of Fairley High School in Memphis, Tenn. Victor grew up in Memphis until 2006 when he moved to Georgia the summer going into the fourth grade.
Football wasn’t on Peppers’ radar then, not until his brother started playing football in the seventh grade. Big brother was doing it. Maybe he should, too.
"When I was really small I wasn’t really into sports," Victor said. "As I got older, I guess more people want to play sports. I thought I’d try it and ended up liking it."
Victor was bigger than teammates, so coaches put him on the offensive line. That’s who he was when he entered Central, a promising offensive lineman who became a starter on varsity as a sophomore.
Now that Victor is at linebacker, he’s become something else. A leader. A game-changer. A threat that opponents have to account for on the field. Maybe even a Division I athlete.
For a Central defense that’s allowed 30.8 points per game this season, Victor’s emergence has given the Bulldogs optimism for next season.
"It hasn’t been the best season," Victor said, "but we want to go out and win this last game."