Julio Jones: Newest Aerial Threat In Atlanta’s Receiving Game
Quintorris Lopez “Julio” Jones, wide receiver #11
Weight: 220 lbs
Hometown: Foley, Alabama
Experience: 2nd season
The Falcons should consider themselves a very lucky team. In the current “pass-happy” era of the NFL having a consistent wide receiver is a necessity. Atlanta doesn’t have one good receiver, it has three. With veterans Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez as passing threats, Julio Jones is now the newest aerial threat in Atlanta’s three-headed monster receiving game.
He may only be a sophomore in the NFL, but don’t confuse his youth with a lack of experience. Having been one of the most heavily recruited football players since his high school days, Jones knows what it takes to compete with the spotlight directly on him.
Even as a high schooler, Jones has been constantly compared to other successful NFL wide receivers. Sports Illustrated likened him to Terrell Owens saying Jones was “a big, physical wideout with great strength, amazing jumping ability and uncanny speed for such a big player.” ESPN’s website saw a different type of wide receiver, but equally good saying Jones “is a unique, rare prospect for the wide receiver position with his supreme blend of size, power, speed and agility. He reminds us of a high school version of Michael Irvin, but at this stage Jones is more explosive and faster.”
As a senior in high school Jones was one of the biggest recruits in the country. ESPN ranked Jones as the #2 overall prep prospect and the #4 overall prospect by Rivals.com. Both sites listed Jones as the top receiver prospect.
Staying near home, Jones decided to attend the University of Alabama. His impact was immediately felt when Jones became the first true freshman receiver to start a season opener for Alabama. In his first game against the Clemson Tigers, Jones had four receptions for 28 yards and a touchdown in the Crimson Tide’s victory.
Jones started all fourteen games for the Crimson Tide in 2008. He finished his first year with 58 receptions for 924 yards and four touchdown catches. Julio was named to the Associated Pressa second team All-SEC team, the SEC Coaches’ All-Freshman Team and the SEC Freshman of the year.
With his impressive freshman year completed, more was expected of this talented wide receiver. Before the 2009 campaign, Jones was selected to the first team All-SEC Coaches’ Football Team. Julio was just one of four players unanimously voted to the team including Tim Tebow, Eric Berry and Ciron Black. However, Jones suffered somewhat of a sophomore slump.In thirteen games in 2009 Jones caught 43 passes for 596 yards and four touchdowns as the Crimson Tide won the BCS National Championship. Jones was the Tide’s leading receiver of the title game.
In Jones’ junior year, it was clear Julio had finally begun to realize his true potential. Voted as a member of the All-SEC Preseason team, Jones offensive numbers soared. Julio pulled in an Alabama record 78 catches for 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns, the fourth most ever by a Tide receiver. Jones didn’t just score by catching balls. He ran the ball 8 times for 135 yards and two touchdowns and occasionally returned punts and kickoffs. For his hard work, Jones was a unanimous 1st Team All-SEC selection in 2010.
Just like with college, Jones was one of the most heavily coveted draft choices. The Atlanta Falcons saw the potential in him and traded five draft picks to the Cleveland Browns to move up to the sixth overall spot that year. While he wore #8 in college, Jones wears #11 in Atlanta as a tribute to the year he was drafted.
Julio’s first NFL touchdown came in Week 9 against the Indianapolis Colts. At the end of the season, Jones led all rookies with eight touchdown receptions. His 54 receptions and 959 receiving yards were second only to A.J. Green for rookies that year.
With his first full NFL season under his belt, Jones’ future with the Falcons appears to be great. With Matt Ryan now coming into his prime, Jones appears poised to run roughshod on defenses and Falcons receiving records at the same time.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.