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Young writer seeking feedback on Julio Jones article

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by TGO157, Jun 3, 2011.

  1. TGO157

    TGO157 Active Member

    I work for a local newspaper in Foley, Alabama (small city near the Gulf Coast). Julio Jones is from Foley, went to school in Foley and played high school football here. We did a feature story on him a few days before the NFL Draft in April. Here's my story:


    Where a star began to shine

    With Julio Jones about to enter the NFL, one of his past football coaches reflects on the former Foley High School wide receiver

    FOLEY, Ala. - National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell takes the stage, envelope in hand. He approaches the microphone and opens the envelope and looks down at the next pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

    It reads, “Julio Jones.” When Goodell makes the announcement, the fans of Julio Jones’ new team cheer the selection. They watch Jones walk up to the stage and take pictures while holding his new team jersey. They wonder what the wide receiver hailing from the University of Alabama will do to help their team.

    While all this is taking place in New York City, down in a small city in the southern part of Baldwin County, Jones’ former coaches, fans, friends and teammates break a smile, too.

    Foley’s star

    There is a good chance Goodell announces Jones’ name tomorrow at the annual NFL Draft. If Jones does walk across stage tomorrow and receive his new team’s jersey, it means he was drafted in the first round, as many have expected.

    Some experts predict the wide receiver from the University of Alabama will be drafted in the first half of the first round and maybe even the top 10. Jones set Alabama single-season records for yards with 1,133 and receptions with 78. He finished his career with 2,653 yards and 179 receptions, while starting in 40 games during three seasons.

    However, before Jones scored touchdowns while sporting the crimson and white uniform, he donned a navy blue helmet with a white letter F as he raced passed corner backs and into end zones. He called himself a Lion and battled the Trojans from Daphne and the Pirates from Fairhope. He ignited roars from crowds and left opposing coaches and players baffled and helpless.

    “(He’s a) great kid,” Russ Moore, Foley High School principal, said about Jones. Moore was an assistant principal when Jones attended FHS and was also his track coach.

    “I’m glad to see things go well for him. He’s a great athlete...I spoke to his mom the other day, and she’s excited about going to New York.”

    For four years, Jones played football for the Foley High School Lions, and for three of those years he played under current head coach Todd Watson.

    Jones’ successes, his potential superstardom and the upcoming draft are creating a buzz in the area, Watson said, because his accomplishments mean a lot to the city.

    “I will say it gives the young people in our community that beacon of light that it could happen to them,” Watson said. “It’s not impossible. It’s been done by someone from here. It’s also important because he did what he was supposed to do in the classroom to be eligible for college, and then he did the job on the field and in the classroom in college to be eligible for the draft...It gives local kids a goal to reach, and the value of that is unmeasurable.”

    Remembering the Lion

    Watson — who coached Jones his sophomore, junior and senior seasons —has been the Foley football head coach for six seasons. With Jones playing receiver for him, the Lions finished the regular season 8-1 and lost in the first round of the playoffs his sophomore year. The team finished 10-1 in 2006 and lost in the first round in Jones’ junior season, and they went undefeated in the 2007 regular season before losing in the third round and finishing with a 12-1 record in Jones’ finale as a Lion.

    Watson can tell stories of how great a player Jones was even as a high school teenager and Watson claims the future NFL receiver was the “full package.”

    “It’s hard to miss his stature,” Watson said. “He wasn’t as big as he is now, but he was still big for a high school player. Even in high school, he was (six feet three inches tall) and 190 pounds. He was thin, tall and rangy, and he could jump. Once we got him in the weight room and saw how he attacked the weights, we knew he would continue to grow.”

    Watson tells the story of when he interviewed for the Foley head coaching job in the spring of 2005. Jones was a freshman and the team was in off-season workouts. Jones was doing the plyometric workout, which is where the player jumps onto a box and jumps off. It was not the workout that Watson remembers, but what Jones did in the workout that immediately caused him to stand out from the rest of the pack in Watson’s eyes.

    “He jumped and cleared the tallest box,” Watson said. “Only a handful of players could jump to the tallest box, but he jumped and cleared it.”

    According to Watson, Jones had many great attributes on the field, but the best was the way he could explode with the football and “accelerate and get in and out of breaks” for being such a big player.

    “He was a big wide receiver,” Watson said. “When he got the ball in his hands, he could do things a small scat back could do. He also had great hands. He just had the whole package.”

    Jones was a quiet kid, Watson said, and it took some time for Jones to grow into being a leader on the field for the Lions because of his naturally quiet personality. However, Jones grew into the role in due time, becoming a team leader around his junior or senior season.

    “I would say more than his physical skills, I’d say his leadership ability,” Watson said when asked what the attribute was that Jones developed in his time at FHS. “He grew into it quickly.

    “Until he gets to know you and get around you a lot, he’ll stay quiet and keep to himself, which isn’t a bad thing,” Watson said.

    But the one thing many people never knew about Jones was the funny and joking side to his character. Jones’ quietness kept that hidden except to those he felt comfortable around.

    “One thing people didn’t get to see of him is his sense of humor,” Watson said. “Once you get to know him and he loosens up, he’s quiet a character.”

    When Alabama head coach Nick Saban, and other coaches, showed interest in recruiting Jones out of FHS, it was Jones’ physical ability and the work ethic he showed that raised eyebrows, Watson said.

    “Sometimes you get a great athlete but not a great leader or a kid with a big heart that’s not as great of an athlete. Julio had both,” Watson said. “He was a guy that you would want part of your team.”

    At the end of the day, Watson does not think he will see many more versions of Jones on a team he coaches. Watson called him “a rarity on the football field,” and he the fact that he coached him for three seasons at Foley.

    “Those kind of guys come along once in a lifetime,” Watson said. “They’re few and far between. Certainly, it’s hard to compare anyone to what Julio has done or will do.”

    To the NFL and beyond

    On Jan. 7, it was announced on rolltide.com that Jones would forego his senior year in college and declare for the draft.

    Jones went about making the decision to leave for the NFL a year before graduating the correct way, Watson said, because he received the advise necessary from the correct people. One person Watson said Jones got advise from was Saban.

    “I think Coach Saban’s stance has always been, ‘If you can go in the top half of the first round, you should go,’” Watson said. “You never know what is going to happen (in the draft). I think he’ll go in the top half of the first round.”

    As for Watson himself, he said he spoke to Jones a little bit about the decision and told Jones that there are other people who could give better advise on the decision than he could, but he was still there for Jones if need be.

    When asked to compare his former wide receiver to any one current or former NFL player, Watson said Jones’ football skills are reminiscent of Terrell Owens, who is a multi-time pro bowl wide receiver known for having a large physique and big personality.

    “From a skill set point of view, he reminds me of Terrell Owens,” Watson said. “He is a big, physical receiver that has the ability to get in and out of breaks. From a personality perspective, they’re at opposite ends of the spectrum. They’re two completely different types of people.”

    As draft day draws nearer and nearer, Jones is traveling across the country and meeting with general managers and player development personnel from different teams, Watson said. The teams want to know a bit more about Jones’ character, and Watson said they should like what they see.

    “I don’t know if you can tell (whether a player has NFL potential) right off the bat,” he said. “Sometimes you have a good athlete but a character flaw. When you see what Julio presents from an athletic and character standpoint, there’s no doubt.”

    Watson said he tries to keep in touch with his former player, and he saw Jones a few weeks ago and caught up with him. Watson said Jones is taking the experience “in stride,” but he “must be” excited about the upcoming draft.

    “He’s kind of quiet and takes it all in stride, but he’s got to be (excited),” Watson said.

    Watson said he would have his eyes glued to the television on Thursday to see where Jones lands, and he will be proud of his former star player regardless what happens at the draft.

    “I’ll be proud for him and excited wherever he goes,” Watson said. “I’m already proud for him and excited for what he’s accomplished and done here at Foley and at college.”

    Julio Jones Day in the works

    Anthony Kaiser — Uptown Foley and Foley Alumni Association representative — said there are workings of having a Julio Jones Day in Foley to celebrate the athlete’s accomplishments and his impact on the city, but nothing has been finalized.

    “We’re kind of sitting in limbo on the date we could do this,” Kaiser said. “The Uptown Foley group, the Alumni Association of Foley and the city of Foley were hoping to do something special for Julio...We’re trying to do something similar to Kenny Stabler back in 1964. We’ll try and give the kids a chance to get autographs at the high school. It may end up being homecoming week.”

    Kaiser said the reason for the event is because of how much Jones means to the city and how special it is to have him be so successful.

    “Julio Jones has brought a lot of life back to our community in the years he was here and in the years he was at Alabama. I’m an Auburn fan, too. I graduated from Auburn,” Kaiser said. “I can tell you Julio Jones is one heck of a guy and has done a heck of a job for our area.”
  2. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    I covered Julio. I think you do a good job of portraying him in this story. I definitely related to the quiet side of Julio. I was never around him enough to see the funny side of him come out, so it was good to hear that side of him exists.

    I liked that you got multiple sources from the town to talk about him. Obviously, it would have been great to have Julio himself quoted, even if briefly, or maybe his mother if possible but I understand the difficulties involved with that. What made it interesting is that the focus of your story was about Jones' impact on Foley rather than on Jones himself. That is exactly what you should have done for the audience you're speaking to. I don't know if you were given a length requirement for the story, but it was a bit long for me and I think portions could have been hacked down without taking away from the story.

    I thought the lede did a good job of drawing in the reader. At the same time, you should realize using a flashforward or flashback as your lede risks confusing some of the audience who might be interested in a guy from Foley who is now famous but who are not necessarily avid NFL fans who know when the draft is. Also, the word "forgo" means to go without while the word "forego" means to go before.

    Hope this helps. Good luck to you.
  3. TGO157

    TGO157 Active Member

    Thank you for the feedback! My editor told me it was too long and said if she had more time it would have been shortened. I agree looking back on it. And I attempted to contact his mother, but it was to no avail.

    Thank you for the feedback, though. I appreciate it.
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