Discovering The Future For Julio Jones

Editor's Note: A.P. Steadham, who ordinarily covers athletes who have completed their Alabama careers and gone on to professional sports success in football, basketball, baseball and the like, has a family background in Baldwin County. That led to his interest in Julio Jones of Foley High School. He has covered all the bases in delving into the life of Julio Jones. This is the fourth part.

Perpetually bombarded with questions about his pending college selection, Julio Jones flashed his own sense of humor. More than one person was delighted to tell the story of an inquiring reporter seeking the answer. Dead pan serious with the timing of a Hollywood actor, he delivered the mystifying reply of "Birmingham Southern." That is a division III school with one year of modern football under its belt under former Alabama star wide receiver Joey Jones (no relation). Birmingham Southern employs former Foley High school offensive coordinator, Joel Williams as an assistant coach. Folks around Foley have stopped asking him where he will matriculate next fall as they've come to accept his private ways.

Recruits such as Alabama commitment Star Jackson (QB, Lake Worth HS, FL) and Florida State commitment E. J. Manuel (QB, Bayside HS, Virginia Beach, VA) contact him periodically with text messages trying to convince him to verbal to their respective universities. Fellow Foley Lion teammate and Alabama verbal commitment, Robert Lester (DB) hinted at a possible reunion when asked about Julio's selection. "He doesn't talk about it but I think eventually he'll probably come up there (Tuscaloosa) with me."

Succinct with each remark, Julio respectfully punctuates with a "Yes, sir" or "No, sir" before softly voicing his thoughts. He is fiercely loyal to his teammates who he calls his brothers yet remains confident enough to retain his independent thinking as a leader of the team.

Confronted with the dual edge sword of adoring fame and notoriety, the discerning young man has been singed by some of the superficial encounters. "Some of them (fans) support you," he readily acknowledged but "If you mess up they boo you. Some people have come up to me and wanted my autograph to sell. They're not a fan. They just want some money. They'll betray you real fast."

Julio's conscious of people's perceptions as he patiently obliges young admirers and their parents after each game by autographing numerous items presented to him with his signature and jersey number: Julio Jones #82. "I'm just open. I'll talk to anybody. I don't want them to think I'm a bad person like he's stuck on himself," said Jones.

The self-effacing behavior emanates from the prevalent influence in his life, his mother, Queen Marvin. She raised him and his older brother Phillip to be children of God and if they forget this mantra, she is quick to remind them of their upbringing. "Be humble and always keep God number one in your life," she advises. "He was just a good child growing up and he stayed humble like he is now. He stayed around his Momma," she said."

Outside the dressing room the week before the Daphne game, Julio rebuffed one youngster's request pleading for his gloves because he felt the gesture would set a precedent for others which could not be provided to all. Undeterred the enterprising youngster appeared after the Daphne game, confident that brand new gloves would be the incentive to exchange for the pair worn during the game. Although entertained by the resourceful and persistent approach, Julio politely declined the proposal as he chuckled to an assistant coach.

Among his distinguishing characteristics are two traits common to prolific winners. They live to win and they play for their teammates creating a synergistic presence. "I hate to lose no matter what I'm doing, Julio said. "I was always wanting to win, even when I was little against the big boys, I wanted to win. If I'm playing anything, I want to win." Football is a sport that demands complete participation by all individuals on every play to insure success for the team. One block can produce a wisp of an opening for the ball carrier to score a winning touchdown or yield position for a last second field goal.

"A lot of wide receivers can catch the ball and run but you're not the only person out there. You can't take a play off for yourself and miss a block. I just go out there and play for the guy next to me. If I have to go out there and make a block for this guy, I will but I expect the same thing in return."

Coaches scour the country for the game breaking physical talents he would bring to their program but would travel to the end of the world for the intangibles he possesses. Ingrained with a hunger to succeed, his actions match his desires to be the best. "I'm physical. I'm hard working. I'm trying to be the strongest person in the weight room. I'm trying to be stronger than all the linemen. I want to be the strongest and the fastest on the team and the playmaker," he said. His unselfish nature allows the coaching staff to move him around to the slot, in the backfield and the wide out positions to discourage the double and triple teams. "I'll play pretty much anywhere on the field wherever the coach wants me. I'm humble. I'm not trying to get the big head."

In the first week of December after being besieged by coaching staffs from all the major BCS conferences across the country seeking his verbal commitment to their universities, Julio announced the five schools he will officially visit. Alabama (12/8), Florida State (1/12), Florida (1/19), Oklahoma (1/26) and Texas Tech (2/2).

He has not turned any school away from pursuing him and still considers himself wide open to the process. Grasping the significance of his imminent commitment and the finality of the decision he states, "I have to be there for four years. I have to live it." He appears completely free from any compelling influence as he deliberates with his ultimate selection. "My mom said it's my decision, he said emphatically. "Whatever decision I make, they (family) are going to support me. There is not a right or wrong decision as to which college I select."

Whenever Julio has a problem, his mother is the trusted confidant he seeks for guidance. She knows her son will "be all he can be." Her expectations for the coach entrusted with his future are simple as she states, "I want them to take care of him like I take care of him at home. I don't want him to go out and get buck wild."

Recruiters trying to understand the shy, humble young man inquire about his poker face demeanor. Shane Jones explains, "They ask is he mad at me? Does he not like the university? I say, ‘Guys, I have known him for three years and if I can get five words out of him, I feel pretty good about it.' Julio keeps to himself and doesn't say a lot. When he says something folks usually listen."

Julio proclaims a life long fascination for an organization led by a West Virginian associated with The University of Alabama. You're thinking Nick Saban and the Alabama football team? Yes, he does show an interest in The Capstone as he has visited Tuscaloosa numerous times for unofficial visits. But captivating his curiosity during his leisure moments is the Discovery Channel created by Matewan, West Virginia, native and former University of Alabama student, John S. Hendricks. Hendricks, founder and chairman of Discovery Communications. spent his freshmen year (1970-71) at the Tuscaloosa campus before transferring to the Huntsville branch where in 1973 he received his B. A. in history. His speech animated with excitement about the educational channel, Julio replied, "It helps you in school if you're doing a project."

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