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Julio Jones, ex-Alabama players uphold strong fraternity in NFL

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones owes Carson Tinker a jersey.

Tinker, the long-snapper for the Jacksonville Jaguars, isn’t what you would call a high-profile NFL player. However, Tinker’s name carries plenty of weight with Jones, who vowed to send Tinker his No. 11 soon to fulfill a jersey-swap ritual.

The two have a bond that will never be broken. Both played at Alabama.

"It’s just a brotherhood we build there when we’re going to the University of Alabama," Jones said. "Even if you don’t talk to that guy for a little bit because you understand he’s working or doing whatever, when you see each other you always talk. You talk to each other and just see how each other are doing, where you’re at in life."

Jones will see another one of his Alabama brothers this week when the Falcons travel to Oakland to face Amari Cooper and the Raiders. Cooper, in his second season, commended Jones for giving him advice and helping him grow as a receiver before entering the NFL.

Jones returned the praise

"Amari, he’s a fast, twitchy guy, a quick guy," Jones said. "He’s a great player. He’s going to go out there (and) he’s going to compete for four quarters. Typical training you get from Alabama, just leaving everything out there on the line, just giving 100 percent."

Jones, Cooper, and Tinker are three of 32 former Alabama players who have already played in an NFL game this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Alabama has produced 39 draft picks over the last five years, the most of any FBS school.

Jones, who plans jersey swaps with New Orleans' Mark Ingram and Los Angeles' Mark Barron, tries to get to as many Alabama games as his schedule will allow. He made it to Arizona back in January to see the Crimson Tide knocked off Clemson, 45-40, to claim the national title. And in the offseason, Jones spent time working out with Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry before Henry was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the second round.

So which Alabama guy does Jones have the tightest relationship with?

"All of them," he said. "It’s not one bond that’s stronger than the other. We just treat everybody the same because a lot of us are in the NFL right now, and we understand each other and what each other has going on. When we play each other, we sit there and we talk to each other."

Jones shares similar interactions with two Alabama guys in his own locker room: Courtney Upshaw and recently added practice-squad player Blake Sims. Upshaw, a defensive lineman, was part of the same 2008 Crimson Tide recruiting class as Jones.

"The bond is very strong," Upshaw said. "There was this reputation of guys from Alabama not really being able to make the NFL jump. But to be able to see our brothers like Julio be able to make that jump, and when guys like that make the jump and become the premiere stars, I’m just rooting for them. I’m proud of them. I’m happy to watch it.

"To be able to play with Julio and now to have Blake here, who played 100 positions at Alabama, my hats off to Blake to see him grow as a player and person."

Sims, signed to the practice squad as running back, said he felt at home immediately upon entering the locker room this past week.

"I felt so comfortable just because I saw Julio and Courtney," Sims said. "Whenever I was doing something wrong on my first day, Julio came by and said, 'Hey, do this, do that.' And Courtney did the same. It made me feel like I was all good.

"You’ve got a lot of fraternities, but at the University of Alabama, a lot of us don’t cross with anybody else. People wonder why, and it’s because we’ve got our own. We don’t cross with another fraternity because we’ve got our own brotherhood. You understand? We’re Bama Psi Phi. That’s who we are."