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Falcons' Julio Jones strives to have Jerry Rice-like work ethic


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2:44 PM ET
  • mcclure_vaughn_m.jpg&w=160&h=160&scale=c
    Vaughn McClure
  • ESPN Staff Writer


Former Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Terance Mathis made an interesting comparison recently when talking about current Falcons receiver Julio Jones.

“It's funny to say this because they're not the same stature, but he reminds me of Jerry Rice,” Mathis said. “Jerry wasn't as big as Julio, wasn't as physical and wasn't as fast, but Jerry Rice got open when people knew where the ball was coming. Then he would make you miss. And he would run away from you, make you miss and make plays.

“That's who Julio reminds me of, just the way he goes about the game. He can run every route: inside, outside, 'cross the middle, deep, short. And that was Jerry. He could do it all.”

Jones, who surpassed Mathis for the No. 2 spot on the franchise's all-time receiving rankings this season behind Roddy White, appreciated being mentioned alongside Rice, the NFL's all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Jones has always looked up to and tried to emulate Rice, and Jones spent time with the Hall of Famer during a 7-on-7 competition coming out of high school.

“Jerry Rice, he's one of the best to ever do it,” Jones said. “I just try to work on me and make the game fun. You've got to go out there and play the game the way it's supposed to be played. Then you get people to like you and appreciate your work by just going out there and competing every down.

“Jerry Rice was looked at in that perspective. He went out there and was a hard-working guy. He was going to give it his all. And I'm kind of the same way. I just go out and give my all, no matter what happens.”

Jones played through a variety of injuries this year, including a toe sprain he continues to overcome. He finished the regular season with 1,409 receiving yards, second behind Indianapolis' T.Y. Hilton (1,448), despite playing in two fewer games. Going into the season, Jones downplayed all the talk about him potentially posting the league's first 2,000-yard season because that simply wasn't his focus.

“So many people are going to always remember what you do and how you make them feel instead of you telling them this and telling them that,” Jones said. “That's why I like to go out and show the work ethic and how I am as a teammate. That's how you become great.

“I can say this and say that and tell you I'm going to do this and do that before every game, but the only thing you're going to remember is what I did and how I made you feel in those situations when I was out there playing. I try to make you feel like you're a part of it. That's just how I take the game.”

Jones' team-first approach is another reason why the Falcons have taken their game to another level as the No. 2 seed in the NFC. He's helped some of the unheralded receivers around him become playoff-ready and become reliable targets for MVP candidate Matt Ryan.




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JJ is a hard working, HUMBLE and reliable person.  His work ethic is second to nobody.  He not only works to learn new things but also teaches (mentors) and shares what knowledge he already has with the other Falcon WR's to make them better.   Our WR corps is not great just because Julio plays here, but because Jones is such a great teammate to all of the others who play here as well.  

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