- Billy Tucker, Scouts, Football Recruiting
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When covering elite high school prospects, one often wonders if the additional national attention might increase their helmet size before they even take their first college snap. In the case of Foley, Ala., wide receiver Julio Jones, the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2008, there is no need to worry about ego.
Jones is the most talented wide receiver prospect we have seen in the past three years, arguably one of the best since the turn of the century. With that said, the gifted athlete remains soft-spoken and humble, and does not appear to be taking any of his talent for granted. Todd Watson, his head coach at Foley High School, might sum it up best.
"Julio is mature beyond his years," Watson said. "He is handling all the interest very well and has remained extremely grounded through the process. This is a lot of attention for anyone -- never mind a high school junior."
Watson says his modest wide receiver prefers to do all of his talking on the football field -- and his actions clearly speak for themselves.
A rare athlete, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Jones possesses all the physical tools to be an impact player at the next level. In 2006, he hauled in 72 receptions for more than 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns while garnering first team all-state honors.
Jones has another season left to torch high school defensive backs and improve his play. One might think it is probably difficult not to rest on his laurels, but the quiet receiver says he tries to take it one day at a time to avoid becoming complacent or overwhelmed by the hype.
"People talk about my work ethic sometimes more than my playing ability, which is nice," he said. "I try to get better every day, and I think the hard work has helped turn me into a better person and not someone who would get a big head."
The ESPNU All-American Game receiver started playing organized football when he was 12 and has worked hard from that point on to improve his craft. Jones possesses evident natural tools, but his dedication to the sport has brought him to this superior level.
Watson calls him one of the hardest workers he has ever coached and a player who consistently tries to get better. He has regimentally attacked the weight room for the past three years to achieve his elite size and strength, and his lifting numbers -- benching 305 pounds, squatting 505 pounds and power cleaning 315 pounds -- are amazingly comparable to his receiving stats.
A prominent track athlete, Jones uses the sport to increase his speed, endurance and explosiveness for the gridiron. Summers are spent playing in seven-on-seven passing leagues and constantly running routes with whomever he can get to throw him the ball -- he seems to have a tireless work ethic and consistent drive to be the best.
Jones is quick to acknowledge another important figure in his life besides Watson, who has helped him achieve and maintain a sound mental approach to the game on and off the field. His mother, who he quite fittingly refers to as "Queen," has kept her son level-headed and grounded.
"My mother has always supported me through life and football," he said. "She pushes me to get better and is my biggest fan on and off the field."
And what would happen if this dazzling wideout's cranium began to swell?
"Oh, she would give me a good kick in the butt," he said.
Jones' relaxed attitude is also apparent in his recruiting approach. He has garnered offers from most of the top schools in the country, and he is presumably the No. 1 overall prospect on a lot of their boards. Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Miami and Florida all appear to be high-interest schools, but the reserved prospect prefers not to state any favorites and is not in a hurry to make a choice. He will continue to take it one day at a time and presumably -- and fittingly -- make his decision on signing day.
Jones should have a prosperous college career in front of him, but you can tell he does not look that far ahead into the crystal ball.
When asked how he felt about being ESPN's No. 1-ranked player in the country for 2008, the modest Jones paused before saying, "Thanks, that is pretty cool."
Scouts Inc.: Favorite NFL team?
Jones: Cincinnati Bengals
Scouts Inc.: Who is your favorite player?
Jones: Chad Johnson
Scouts Inc.: What is it about playing your position that you love?
Jones:The one-on-one matchup and ability to make the big play.
Scouts Inc.: Person you most admire?
Jones: My mother.
Scouts Inc.: Favorite school subject?
Jones: Math or English.
Scouts Inc.: Favorite TV show?
Jones: Anything on the Discovery Channel.
Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school level. Tucker has served as a recruiting coordinator for two nationally ranked Division II colleges. Most recently, he was the associate head coach and defensive coordinator for Merrimack College, which advanced to the Sweet 16 in the 2006 NCAA Division II playoffs.