The 2019 season will be the ninth that wide receiver Julio Jones is suiting up for the Atlanta
Falcons. Since the team traded up to take the Foley, Alabama, native with the sixth-overall pick of
the 2011 draft, he has established a reputation as one of the NFL’s greatest talents - and perhaps
the most complete wide receiver that the game has ever seen.
The seemingly limitless potential has surrounded Jones since his varsity football days, and
the excitement only grew once he began his collegiate career. On Alabama’s campus, the long
autograph lines waiting for Jones could only be paralleled with the flocks of fans seeking the
signature of his famed head coach, Nick Saban. The celebrity, the pressure to perform and all the
hype, however, has been eclipsed by a quiet confidence, an intense focus and most importantly,
results every step of the way. At Foley High School, Jones was a starter on the basketball team
and was even named Gatorade Track & Field Athlete of the Year for the state of Alabama his
junior year. His gifted athleticism had him ranked as the No. 1 wide receiver in the nation and
he had a consensus five-star ranking as he signed to Alabama live on television during National
Signing Day in 2008.
Jones was not always a receiver, but it was a position he transitioned into naturally. At the
earliest stages of his football career, Jones learned the game by playing defensive back and
running back before he sprouted several inches into his current 6-foot-3 frame. The physicality
and toughness Jones brings to his position today is something he has long credited to having
begun his career at other positions. A look into this mindset was foretold when Gentry Estes of
the Mobile Press-Register sat down with Jones in November, 2009 to do an off-the-field feature
with the SEC star. Jones, who was in the heart of his sophomore season with the Crimson Tide
described where this toughness originated.
“I get mad if one person brings me down,” admitted Jones. “Even two, I mean, I get mad. I’m
really hard on myself. I think I got that way from playing running back. I played corner and safety,
Who doesn’t want to go hit
somebody? If you’re not getting
the ball, are you going to take a play
off and walk around? It’s football.
too. I mean, I’m not scared to hit nobody.”
Jones does not need the ball in his hands to get after the defense, as he also explained.
“Who doesn’t want to go hit somebody? If you’re not getting the ball, are you going to take a
play off and walk around? It’s football.”
When Jones arrived in Atlanta in 2011, he immediately found his fit in an offense with Matt
Ryan at quarterback, Roddy White as the primary receiver and Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez at
tight end. His team-first attitude allowed him to grow while making his teammates better and
sharing the spotlight. He finished the season leading all rookies with eight touchdown receptions.
The following season, Jones’ role increased as Atlanta secured an NFC-best 13-3 record and a
super-star tandem was born. Jones finished with 79 receptions, 1,198 yards and 10 touchdowns,
while White finished with 92 catches for 1,351 yards and seven scores in 2012. Both receivers
represented Atlanta in the Pro Bowl.
That is how Jones’ NFL career began, but in the seven seasons since, he and his quarterback
have maintained their greatness while conquering new challenges and always evolving their
game. The results have been historic and Jones continues to redefine his position and radiate his
quiet confidence throughout the Falcons organization.
Jones has appeared in 111 regular season games with the Falcons and has produced 698 receptions,
10,731 receiving yards and 51 touchdowns. He became the fastest player in NFL history
to eclipse 10,000 receiving yards this past year and his ability to get open and stretch the field is
represented by his incredible career average of 15.4 yards per reception. While the complete body
of work supplies plenty of evidence to show how big Jones’ impact is, there are also the individual
games and unforgettable moments that go even deeper into his once-in-a-generation skillset.
Perhaps his most impressive performance came in Atlanta’s 48-33 Week 4 victory over Carolina
during the 2016 season. It was a game that saw Jones haul in six receptions for 152 yards
by the seven-minute mark of the second quarter. Before it was over, Jones had 12 catches for
a franchise-record 300 receiving yards. Even still, Jones was just one of the nine receivers that
caught a pass that day and one of the four different Falcons that caught a touchdown pass in the
victory. Jones constantly creates opportunities in Atlanta’s attack whether he has the ball in his
hands or is pulling in defenders to open up opportunities for his teammates and Jones and the
Falcons are poised to be as potent as ever in 2019.
ATLANTA FALCONS YEARBOOK 2019
- Julio Jones