Julio Jones Impresses Those Around Him

Editor's Note: A.P. Steadham, who ordinarily covers athletes who have completed their Bama 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 concludes a five-part series.

Russ Moore is assistant principal and special assistant track coach for jumping events at Foley High School, where Julio Jones is the star attraction. Moore remarked about the character of the physically gifted and gracious athlete. "Every time I've been around him he's had a wonderful attitude toward other competitors, people who aren't anywhere in the same league with him. He treats them just like he would somebody he's going head to head with. He's respectful and encouraging, just a sportsman. Track tends to be a little more gentlemanly than some of the other things that are a little more competitive head to head. Julio personifies that as he makes the adjustment from banging heads in football and banging bodies in basketball to slowing things down a bit and helping people he is competing with in track. He's just a class act. I enjoy being around him."

Track is a sport dependent on understanding the nuances of controlling the movements of the body. Consequently the coaching techniques for the jumping events attempt to convey abstract approaches to achieve results. Julio made slight adjustments during a meet to rectify the deficiencies signifying a high level of comprehension and intelligence according to Moore. "You tell him something and you can almost see him think about it and picture it in his head. He says "Yes, sir." And he corrects it. If you talk to him and explain things to him, he's always not only real quick to understand but also apply it.

"I think it transfers to a football field too. He sees the whole field almost like a great point guard would in a basketball game. I think he can anticipate where people are going to be when you see him run in the open field. It's obvious the vision is incredible."

Even world class athletes have discouraging days but their resiliency separates them from the ordinary. Faltering at the state open meet in his sophomore year during the high jump competition where he expected to medal, Julio maintained his composure as he encouraged others he knew still participating in the event. He compartmentalized his disappointment and within an hour proceeded to win the state championship in the long jump displaying a level of maturity beyond his years. Moore recalled, "He never said anything negative and never made an excuse. He just took care of business."

Winning the state championship outdoor long and triple jump titles the past two seasons, Julio's personal best in those two events are 24-feet, two-inches and 49-feet, 1-inch. Although he won the indoor high jump title last year as a junior, he has yet to win the state championship outdoor event but has the potential to break the state record of just over seven feet as he has cleared 6-8 with room to spare. He expends so much effort in the weight room along with the cumulative fatigue of the football and basketball seasons that track practice has been secondary on his agenda according to Moore. That only amplifies the achievements. As a junior, he was awarded the 2006-07 Gatorade Alabama Boys' Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

Named the number one prospect on the Scout.com network and the top player in the country on ESPN's 150 list, Julio was awarded the 2007-2008 Gatorade Alabama Football Player of the Year and the 2007 Mr. Alabama Football by the Alabama Sports Writers Association.

National signing day on the first Wednesday of February 2008 will end the recruiting chase as one university will have touched Julio long enough for him to stop and pen his signature on a national letter of intent.

They call him "The Future," a name worthy of his promising potential as he embarks on a journey into the fiercely competitive world of college football. Celebrated athletes content to rest on their laurels can suffer the indignant feeling of regret unless they remember to carry their hunger to achieve in their luggage of behavior as they travel the ride in pursuit of their dreams.

Julio will be running again as the Lion King's pride embraces the competition on his quest to ascend the throne as one of college football's elite. When he leaves Baldwin County, he will transport the hopes and dreams of the people of Foley who have watched him perform all the magnificent feats one can ever imagine on a football field. Every future Saturday in the fall, they will pause to observe one of their most famous sons as he parades his talents in stadiums across the country. Some even contemplate beyond as legendary former Foley Coach Ivan Jones projects, "If he stays healthy, we'll see him play on Sunday afternoons someday."

In the 1930s and 1940s, over seven million gladiolus stems bearing a dozen or more buds produced in South Baldwin County each season were shipped in express cars via the L&N railroad from Foley to florists all over the North, East and Middle West. From an L&N employee magazine of June, 1939, come these words. "And thus the production of this popular flower has grown from experimental beginnings a decade ago into a major industry in Alabama's Baldwin County whose fertile soil and favorable climate have emboldened its citizens to claim that ‘if it grows, Baldwin can grow it in bigger and better quantities'." For one season the claim has been recognized as the truth by football aficionados across the country as the generational memories of his deeds are planted into the minds of the friendly, welcoming city of Foley.

The fertilizing ingredients of hard work and humbleness germinating amongst the nurturing climate of a football feverish community may have produced the budding superstar that will blossom into Foley's biggest and best of all time but only the future knows.

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