Wide receiver Julio Jones doesn’t have a lot to prove. Good thing. When Alabama had Pro Day Wednesday, Jones was on the sideline propped on a pair of crutches. Also among the spectators was Jones’s Bama battery mate over the past two years, quarterback Greg McElroy. His right (throwing) hand was in a splint, which looked for all the world like a bowling glove.
“Bowling is probably my best sport,” cracked Greg McElroy, who set just about every Alabama passing record in his two seasons as the Crimson Tide quarterback. He also led Bama to a national championship and a record of 24-3.
Julio Jones was setting Alabama pass receiving records in his three years. Now he is passing up his final year at Bama to move on to the NFL.
Jones had an outstanding workout for NFL scouts at the Combine in Indianapolis last month, perhaps the best workout of any player. He ran a 4.39 40-yard dash and had a Combine best 11-foot, 3-inch standing broad jump.
His performance was all the more remarkable because it was learned that Jones had set his marks on a broken right foot. Even more amazing is that Jones knew his foot was fractured and nevertheless elected to compete. Last Saturday he underwent surgery to insert a pin.
How did he perform so well at the Combine?
“I ran so well thanks to a lot of preparation,” he said. “I really didn’t care too much about my ankle. I told myself, ‘if I go out here and break it, I’ll still have to have surgery’, so I just went out there and participated, did everything I needed to do.”
He said the prognosis for recovery would be four weeks if it was during the season and time was of the essence. “But since we’re not in season, I’m just going to take my time with rehab,” he said.
Major League baseball legend Dizzy Dean once explained, “If you’ve done it, it ain’t bragging.”
Asked if he is a tough guy, Julio wasn’t bragging. “I’m very tough,” he said. “I really can’t tell you how tough I am, but I can tell you that I can play with a lot of stuff that a lot of other guys couldn’t play with. It’s a possibility that that toughness could increase my stock, but I really don’t get into that as far as my stock and that. I just go out there and try to have a good time.”
Although Jones said he has been interviewing with teams, he said, “I think I’m done with workouts. My biggest concern right now is getting healthy and getting my foot back to 100 per cent.” He is staying in Tuscaloosa to continue his rehabilitation.
There has been speculation that Jones has passed A.J. Green of Georgia as the wide receiver likely to go highest in the draft April 28-30.
“I really don’t care too much about where I get drafted at because I’m still going to try to go in and make an impact,” Jones said. “I’m just trying to get healthy right now. I don’t care about getting drafted ahead of A.J. He’s a good friend of mine. He’s a great athlete as well. He goes before me, I go before him, it doesn’t matter. If a team picks either one of us they’ll have a great receiver.”
Jones doesn’t know when he broke his foot. McElroy knows that he injured his thumb playing in the Senior Bowl.
The injury was a minus, but McElroy said, “I feel good. I think I had a good Senior Bowl performance. I was happy with that. I’ve done everything I can to get this hand nursed back to health. I got my cast off Tuesday, so that’s one step in the right direction. Hopefully, in the next week or so I can start throwing and be prepared to throw on April 5. That’s the day we’re targeting right now.
“The coaches made a Pro Day for myself, Earl (Alexander) and Preston (Dial) to come out here and run some routes. I’d love to have Mark (Ingram) and Julio (Jones) if they want to be here, but I’m not sure Julio’s going to be 100 per cent, and I’m not sure how much Mark can show on the receiving end – not that he’s not talented enough to play slot receiver, I assure you, but I don’t think he really needs to.”
McElroy, a Rhodes Scholar finalist and national Academic All-American of the Year, is putting his mental capacity to work. “I’m trying to go out there and do everything I possibly can do right now mentally,” he said. “I’m just thinking about it right now, trying to be totally ready to go. In the next couple of weeks I’ll be able to throw 100 per cent, every route that I’ll be asked to throw at Pro Day.
“I’ve really taken this hand injury positively; it’s the only way to think about it. It is better that it happened now rather than in the (2010 Alabama) season. I’d much rather play 13 games here and then play one in the All-Star game and be dinged up now. As much as I’d like to be training, it’s definitely better than the alternative. My mentality is pretty good right now. I feel good about where I am. Hopefully I can show enough over the next couple of weeks, on the board before I’m ready to throw, to generate some attention.”
He said he wouldn’t push his return. “Getting back into it, I’ll probably start with some stationary targets. I’ll probably get to the tougher throws as it moves on. I’ll have enough repetitions over the next few weeks that I’ll be fully prepared to throw any of the routes they ask me. It won’t be too difficult to throw one route rather than another because of the injury. If anything it’ll be a positive getting back into it because I have a tendency to grip the ball a little bit tight on some of the deeper routes, so hopefully that’ll help me loosen up my grip. That’s something that I’ve been working on leading up to the Senior Bowl, and I’ve had some pretty good reviews thanks to the new technique. Hopefully I can continue to work on my technique.”
McElroy apologized for a report that he had scored a 48 on the NFL’s Wonderlic test. “That sounded too good to be true,” he said. His goal had been 40, which is extremely high. He actually scored a 43. The 48 score was given to him by his agent, who got it from someone in the NFL, McElroy said.
“I’ll take either one,” he said. Reports are that the average score is 20 and that NFL teams want a quarterback who scores “at least a 21.”
McElroy reiterated that he believes he has an advantage over some quarterback candidates “because of Coach (Nick) Saban. I played in a pro-style offense against a pro-style defense. When I was talking with some of the teams about schemes, they would say they used the same thing.”
McElroy said he isn’t concerned about where he might be drafted. He has heard everything from third round to seventh. “It doesn’t really matter,” he said. “Today, I’m not the least bit worried about my draft stock.
“Come April 28-30, I’m going to be a little bit more conscious of it.”
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