There’s a side of Julio Jones’ personality that people outside of the Atlanta Falcons’ locker room don’t get to see.
Assistant head coach Raheem Morris, who works with the wide receivers, noticed it immediately. He saw how younger players leaned on Jones for direction. Morris also noticed that ex-Falcons on other teams often reached out to Jones for advice.
Two-time Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman is familiar with that aspect of Jones’ character. He has benefited from it.
“He’s helped me in a lot of ways, just with the things I see and any type of advice I need,” Freeman said. “Just being straight-forward. The way he moves is professional. The way he practices is professional. Everything he does, there’s just a professionalism about him. I’m the type of person I like to follow greatness. Anything I need, Julio’s there for me.”
Jones’ cool, calm approach has rubbed off as the Falcons prepare for Saturday’s divisional playoff matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. The five-time Pro Bowler has battled a variety of injuries throughout this season, including his latest bout with ankle and thumb issues, yet has never used those injuries as a crutch. And maybe Jones doesn’t practice every single day, but he only practices at one speed — full-go — which creates an example for others to follow.
“Honestly, it’s just his prep,” tight end Levine Toilolo said of Jones. “To me, he could just show up and go out there and be a freakish athlete. But week in and week out, he puts in the work. Not only in the meeting room, but he mentors guys as far as what he sees on a route or how to release. He’s always on top of all his stuff.”
Jones is never quick to take much credit, but he does relish taking on a mentoring role in his seventh NFL season.
“I have great relationships with a lot of guys around the league,” Jones said. “Just being a mentor, it’s always good. It’s always good to bring people with you and don’t let people get down. Just speaking from experience, a lot of people are away from home. Or they’re just coming from another team. There’s a lot of different ways you can look at it and view people in different situations. You just have to make them feel at home, talk to them, and talk them through stuff.”
Jones used the example of teammate Marvin Hall, a wide receiver who has been inactive the past two game. Hall rode the high of scoring a 40-yard touchdown earlier in the season against Miami, then felt the low of being the target of criticism after his drop led to the infamous “butt pick” by Marshon Lattimore in a loss at New Orleans.
Jones made sure to keep Hall’s spirits up.
“Marvin Hall, he’s from the West Coast, and he’s up and down [active or inactive] week to week,” Jones explained. “You want to have him ready to go at all times. He’s not a guy I’m saying I’ve had to talk to all the time to get him to practice well. He gives us great looks at practice. He knows [his] role. When his time is up to play in the game, he’s ready to go.”
Jones is always ready, which is something he teammates admire. Fellow receiver Justin Hardy, when asked one thing he has learned from Jones, responded, “How to be a professional.”
Freeman reiterated the same.
“I’m a smart person, so I observe. So when I first got here, I used to observe Matt [Ryan], and I observed Julio,” Freeman said. “They’re super-successful, and I just watched how they practiced every day. I watched how they prepared for the game. … Just the way Julio approaches it; to be a pro at all times.”
Jones is glad to relay such positive energy to his teammates with this actions. But he’s also always willing to talk.
“I feel like if you have the time to give somebody, listen to their problems,” Jones said. “A lot of times, people need to vent to people and know that what they’re telling you is not going to be shared with anyone else. Or they know you’re going to give them ‘the real.’ Just being truthful to them when they’re right, they’re right, and when they’re wrong, they’re wrong.”
Jones said there isn’t anyone necessarily he leans on regarding his own issues, mainly because he tries not to have them.
“I’m never frustrated,” he said. “I create a stress-free environment. Everything I do, I’m never stressed about nothing. I’m mentally strong. I never let anything get to me. I just think stuff through. I’m a deep thinker.”