The Atlanta Falcons gave up a lot of draft capital to get Julio Jones way back in the 2011 NFL Draft, reckoning that he was a generational receiver who could lift their offense. They were proven right on that, but I don’t think even the Falcons suspected that the man they were drafting would be so big, so fast, and so gifted as to inspire awe even in the hyper-competitive world of the NFL.
Yet he has, and it appears to have been this way for Julio for essentially his whole life. In this fascinating new profile from Sports Illustrated, they explore Julio’s upbringing, from the time he beat a grown man fresh out of prison 15-2 in one-on-one pickup basketball as a teen, to the way he would seem to hover above the rim during basketball games, to the way Nick Saban talked about him as the kind of athlete Alabama could build a program around.
It’s impossible to sort fact from fiction with Julio, which is sort of the point. The fact that every outlandish anecdote mentioned in the story seems realistic tells you just how special he is, and as Matt Ryan says in the piece, you can readily believe that Julio would be world class at literally anything he chose to do.
What struck me, reading this, is how absolutely insane it is that Julio has remained one of the NFL’s most humble, quiet superstars despite being a living legend from the time he was just a boy in Alabama. If you or I were fawned over the way Julio was, there’s no way for us to say with confidence that we’d be anything less than swaggering, raging egomaniacs, but that has never been the case for Julio. He has always seemed equal parts myth and man for those of us who are lucky enough to watch
Go read the whole profile now. It’s astonishing.