Alabama in the Pros

NFL legend at WR said Falcons’ Julio Jones is ‘the best he’s ever seen’

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When he retires, Larry Fitzgerald will be a first ballot Hall of Famer. 

The former No. 3 overall pick of the 2004 NFL Draft from the University of Pittsburgh has turned in a remarkable 15-year career at wide receiver. He has seen great players come and go, he almost captured a Super Bowl in the 2008 season, and he was an 11-time Pro Bowl selection. 

Fitzgerald spent his entire career with the Arizona Cardinals and despite the talents he has been around and watched, he could only name one as the best. Prior to kickoff in last week’s game versus the Atlanta Falcons, Fitzgerald was talking to rookie quarterback – Kyler Murray – in pregame warmups. As he turned toward the opposite end of the field, the 2003 runner-up to the Heisman Trophy directed Murray’s attention to a nine-year veteran for the Falcons. 

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It would be stating the obvious to say Julio Jones was special at Alabama. 

All he did was change the landscape in recruiting, helped the Crimson Tide win its first BCS National Championship under Nick Saban (2009) and become a 1,000-yard weapon in his final season (2010) before getting selected as the No. 6 overall pick in the 2010 draft.  

Since Deion Sanders and Michael Vick, no one has made the Falcons special like Jones. 

He has served as the heart and soul on offense since being drafted, totaling six 1,000-yard seasons, six Pro Bowl appearance and two All-Pro first team honors. Jones led the NFL in receiving yards twice (2015, 2018) and was its co-receptions leader in the 2015 season. 

He carried the franchise to a Super Bowl in the 2016 campaign and though he helped Matt Ryan accomplish league MVP honors, the Falcons did not clinch the Vince Lombardi Trophy. 

In getting back to Fitzgerald’s appreciation of Jones, cameras from the Emmy Award-winning Inside the NFL show caught telling Murray about his respect for the former Tide star. 

“No. 11, you are about to see him today,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s the best I’ve ever seen.” 

Murray, the 2018 Heisman winner and No. 1 overall pick of this year’s draft, tried to play it off by laughing and saying ‘Yeah, he’s a freak’ but the legend was serious. 

“I’m serious. He’s the best I’ve ever seen.” 

Atlanta would drop the game by a score of 34-33, but Jones brought in his third 100-yard performance of the season (108, eight catches) on nine targets. He has 467 yards receiving with four touchdowns on 34 catches; however, the Falcons are 1-5 through its first six games. 

The blame is certainly not on Jones. 

He is the highest-paid player at his position and is worth every penny.  

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound monster signed a three-year, $66 million deal with $64 million guaranteed. Ryan has thrown seven interceptions thus far, and fans of the Crimson Tide and Falcons wonder is the team wasting Jones’ best years. While the jury is out on this one, Fitzgerald knows greatness and he truly values what he sees in the next NFL ambassador. 

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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