Julio Jones watches star grow brighter

sports@ledger-enquirer.comAugust 8, 2009 

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — When Julio Jones took his turn meeting with reporters on Friday, he asked for a little support. So he brought running back Mark Ingram along for his second date with the media.

The star sophomore, who was shielded by coach Nick Saban’s freshmen interview ban last season, made an interesting revelation following the second practice of the fall Friday afternoon.

His sports hernia that required surgery following spring practice had been an issue long before April. The soft-spoken wide receiver said the injury initially was suffered five games into the fall when the Crimson Tide beat Georgia 41-30 on Sept. 27.

Jones never missed a start and gained 621 of his team-high 924 yards after the injury, including all three of his 100-yard games. In the first of the three, a 6-catch day for 103 yards at Tennessee saw Jones suffer further injuries to his wrist and shoulder.

So did he ever consider taking a game off?

“No,” Jones said. “I just go out there and play hard.”

Now healed and participating in the preseason practices, Jones has seen his star grow even brighter since completing his freshman season. He’s landed on several All-American teams, while the other Tide wide receivers vie for the No. 2 role in the offense to keep opposing defenses from double- and triple-teaming the Foley High School product.

But Jones says he isn’t feeling too much pressure to be the main target for new quarterback Greg McElroy.

He’s also feeling more comfortable in the offense this August compared to last year but is not resting on his reputation.

“I know a lot more,” he said. “I can run the plays and everything and help the young guys.”

Saban has said Jones could be lining up in several different places from slot to wide receiver to keep defenses from locking in too tightly on the marquee offensive player.

Senior Mike McCoy is a leading candidate to be that other receiver and he certainly has faith in Jones’ ability to perform.

“That’s a special kid right there,” McCoy said. “You are always going to see something different. You never know what to expect. He’s been working his tail off — maybe even a little more this year.”

When he isn’t playing football, Jones will spend at least a little time as the campus’ most recognizable politician. Despite not running any form of a campaign, he was elected to the Student Government Association Senate last spring.

While “shocked” at first, Jones said he plans on fulfilling the obligations of the job representing the College of Human Environmental Sciences in the senate.

He’ll also have plenty of people looking forward to meeting him Sunday when the Tide practices in Bryant-Denny Stadium on Fan Day starting at 3:30 p.m. The hundreds of autographs he will sign will not be a burden, he said. “If I can make someone’s day,” Jones said, “then I look forward to it.”

Notes: Three Alabama football players will receive their diplomas Saturday to complete their undergraduate program. Quarterback Greg McElroy, defensive end Alonzo Washington and wide receiver Travis Sikes will join eight of their teammates who already hold degrees. McElroy, the new starter, finished his undergrad in just three years and compiled a 3.85 grade point average to graduate magna cum laude. … Saban said he was unsure when freshman Kerry Murphy would be back at practice following the murder on Thursday of his brother, Terrory Murphy. The coach said members of his staff have been in communication with the defensive end from Hoover since he returned home after getting word of the shooting that took place just outside Birmingham in Bessemer.

“It’s a shame what happened,” Saban said. “We are certainly concerned about (Kerry Murphy) and his family’s well-being. It’s up to him whether he comes back here for a few days or stays home. We are just going day-to-day.”

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