Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers spent his off day assessing the damage of Hurricane Florence with his own eyes.
Peppers, who started a fund for Hurricane Florence relief with $100,000 of his own money, spent Tuesday helping with the recovery efforts in Lumberton, N.C -- about a two-hour drive from his hometown in Bailey.
"My home isn't too far away from that area, and that made it real to me," the 38-year-old Peppers said, via the Charlotte Observer. "It made it real to me to actually come down here and see some of the damage, some of the people who were affected by this disaster."
Hurricane Florence caused extensive damage in September, with estimates saying it will take years to fix.
"A lot of these people had to rip the walls out of their homes, throw out furniture and clothing, throw out everything that they had, all of their possessions thrown to the side of the road," Peppers said. "Seeing those things, and the people telling their stories, it was an experience that I'm going to take with me and that I'm going to share with others as I encourage others to come try to help out, too.
"... When the storm hits, and the media coverage isn't there anymore, those people are still there," he said. "The problems don't leave just because the cameras did. The after-effects where people are having to go in and do these repairs, oftentimes on their own or with the help of volunteers, it's a tall task. ... Some of these people are still rebuilding from the last hurricane two years ago. It's been a tough time for all of them, and it's going to be a process even now."
Peppers, who had 11 sacks last season, is fourth all-time (154 1/2) and within 5 1/2 of catching Hall of Famer Kevin Greene for third. He has five tackles this season.
The No. 2 overall selection in the 2002 NFL Draft, Peppers was NFC Rookie of the Year in 2002 and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 while with the Panthers.
Peppers played for the Chicago Bears from 2010-13 and had 37.5 sacks. He was released after the 2013 season and wound up with the Green Bay Packers, notching 25 sacks in three seasons.
Peppers is the only player in NFL history with 150 sacks and 10 or more interceptions. He also leads all active players with 20 career fumble recoveries and ranks second in forced fumbles (49) in the NFL since 2002.