When the Falcons executed the blockbuster trade that brought them Julio Jones, Roddy White, then Atlanta's No. 1 wide receiver, could have reacted in many different ways. He could have taken the move as an insult. He could have felt threatened. He could have stuck up his nose and acted entitled and kept a wall up between himself and the brilliant prospect from Alabama.
Instead, White took Jones under his wing and taught the rookie how to navigate the NFL. Jones paid close attention to what his talkative mentor had to say about football, about life. And he grew substantially because of their friendship.
Jones is still listening to the nearest voice in his ear at Flowery Branch, but his role in the conversation has changed. White is no longer with the club; Jones is no longer the wide-eyed, long-haired rookie.
The Falcons' locker room underwent some massive changes this offseason, and here's a look at the before and after shots.
Now, it's 24-year-old Devonta Freeman, Jones' lockermate for 2016, chatting him up. The high-energy running back has plenty of questions for Atlanta's star wideout. Having spent so much time gathering knowledge from No. 84, Jones has plenty of valuable answers.
"(White) passed along some great traits to me, so now I can teach other guys," Jones said Tuesday. "It'd be so easy to keep all that wisdom to myself and not share it, feel like someone is stepping on your toes or whatever. But we're out here to win."
Jones didn't morph into a leader overnight, but the three-time Pro Bowler understands why he needs to fully embrace such a role. He did just that during Matt Ryan's passing camp in Miami, where he had a chance to work with one of the Falcons' free agent signings, WR Mohamed Sanu.
Nearly six years ago, White took the sixth overall draft pick aside and showed him how to run his routes more effectively. In South Florida, as Jones conferred with Sanu, it all came full circle.
"There were a few things—because it's a new scheme he's coming into, a new offense—he listened to me," Jones said. "Certain things I was like, 'Hey, this is what we're looking for on this route.' Next time he was up there running the route, he did it perfect. So he's going to be great for us."