INDIANAPOLIS — In Alabama's game against South Carolina on Oct. 9, WR Julio Jones fractured a bone in his hand. The next week, he played through the pain, but caught only one pass for eight yards.
The next week, he had a slightly better outcome: he grabbed 12 passes for a school-record 221 yards against Tennessee. It is that toughness that has NFL scouts looking at Jones as a top-15 pick in this year's draft.
Much of Jones' Saturday news conference at the NFL Scouting Combine focused on his blocking ability, not the normal topic of conversation for a receiver. But then again, Jones isn't your typical receiver: when asked who he models his game after, the first name out of his mouth was Ravens MLB Ray Lewis.
"I love how (Lewis) plays, Hines Ward as well, the way he blocks, the way he is committed on every play," Jones said. "I have a defensive mentality, I'm not scared to hit, I'm a physical guy, and I look for that. I like to hit defensive players because they're not used to getting hit, they're used to hitting offensive players and getting them out of their comfort zone, so when I hit them I try to get them out of their comfort zone."
For Jones, who checked in at the Combine at 6-2, 220 pounds, takes pride in his blocking ability because he views it as a way to help out his teammates.
"I'm not a selfish player," Jones said. "I go out there and block. I know just like the running back, he has got to sit in there for protection when I go out there for a deep pass. I want the ball, too, when I go out, so I know he's going to block for me and he's going to handle his responsibilities, so I try to do the same."
Inevitably, Jones was asked to compare himself to fellow SEC star A.J. Green, and offer his opinion on who is the better receiver. However, Jones refused to make any predictions about Green, who is training for the draft at the same facility that Jones is, and whom Jones considers a friend.
"A.J. Green is a great receiver, and there's a whole bunch of other guys that are great as well," Jones said. "I can't say I'm better than (A.J.), I can't say he's better than me."
In addition to his physical style of play, Jones also had to battle through multiple injuries during the season, not just the broken hand. But Jones refused to make any excuses.
"A lot of guys have injuries," Jones said. "Unfortunately I had probably more than everybody else, but I didn't quit, I didn't stop, it didn't hold me back, I didn't miss any practice, or nothing like that. I finished my season."