Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is a star in the National Football League. He’s been a consistent play maker, dating back to the 2011 NFL Draft. Atlanta selected Jones with the sixth pick in the first round. He was named the Atlanta Sports Council’s Professional Athlete of the Year, during an Atlanta Sports Award ceremony (Fox Theatre) on Thursday night.
Jones, a four-year veteran, has seen his numbers increase with each season.
He emerged onto the scene as a rookie in 2011. Jones was targeted 96 times, resulting in 54 catches for 959 yards and eight touchdowns (lead all rookies). His efforts on the field helped Atlanta secure a 10-6 record, culminating in a playoff berth.
Jones became a primary target for Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan in 2012. He put in 79 catches (129 targets) for 1,198 yards and 10 touchdowns. Atlanta finished the season 13-3, capturing a No.1 seed in the NFC playoffs. Jones collected six passes for 59 yards in Atlanta’s playoff matchup against Seattle, but it was an action on defense that dropped jaws.
Jones is a freak athlete at 6’4” and 220 pounds. He recorded his first career interception in the final seconds of the game. Seattle attempted a Hail Mary pass, but Jones’s leaping abilities negated the Seahawks’ opportunity. Atlanta won 30-28, earning its first playoff win under Mike Smith. Jones made his first Pro Bowl appearance on Jan. 27, 2013.
A fractured foot limited Jones to five games in 2013. He accounted for 41 catches on 60 targets. Jones’s 580 receiving yards and two touchdowns are the lowest he’s had since entering the league. Injuries to Jones and others caused Atlanta to finish at 2-14, its worst season under Smith.
Jones set career-highs in targets (164), receptions (104) and yards (1,593) in 2014. He totaled six touchdowns in 15 games, while setting a personal high in receiving yards against Green Bay. Jones had 259 yards against the Packers on Monday Night Football (Dec. 8, 2014). He punched his ticket to a second Pro Bowl appearance on Jan. 25, 2015.
He’s had one playoff appearance, but Jones has collected numerous awards in four seasons.
He was named as an NFL All-Pro by Sporting News in 2014. His 1,593 receiving yards led the NFC in 2014. Jones was ranked No.26 in the top 100 NFL players of 2013.
The Atlanta Sports Awards have been presented since 2006. Five of the last six players to hoist the Professional Athlete of the Year Award all have had strong ties to the state of Alabama.
Jones was a fan favorite in Tuscaloosa from 2008-10. He broke out as a freshman, totaling 924 yards and four touchdowns on 58 receptions. His numbers dwindled a bit in 2009 (hand injury), but he still helped Alabama capture a Southeastern Conference title and a national championship. He responded in 2010 with his best season in a crimson and white uniform. Jones had 1,133 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 78 catches. He finished 2010 being named first-team All-SEC.