I have always hated my first name.
It has nothing to do with my parents, who named me (thanks, guys). And my distaste for my name wasn’t always there, because when I was kid growing up in Puerto Rico and the Bronx, Paul Simon sang about how he would hang out with me by the schoolyard and Mexican Julio César Chávez was beginning one of the greatest boxing careers ever.
Being a Julio used to be cool in the 1970s and early '80s, so I do thank my parents for that.
Until some guy named Julio Iglesias messed it all up.
If you don’t know who Julio Iglesias is, then you are the luckiest and happiest person in the world. For me, the Spanish crooner made life miserable every time I had to introduce myself to someone:
Hi, I’m Julio.
Like Julio Iglesias?
No. Please stop.
It didn’t help that Iglesias sang these cheesy and painful Spanish-language ballads. As a 12-year-old hip-hop and punk rock kid, I would cringe every time I heard him sing. This is who people thought I was? Some guy who represented every Latino lover stereotype I could not stand?
No, there had to be a better Julio out there.
But there wasn’t.
Baseball player Julio Franco? As much as I should have rooted for Franco, he never played for any of the teams I rooted for, even though he played for a lot of teams.
After Franco, could you name another super-famous Julio from the late '80s until the early 2000s?
But everyone knew Julio Iglesias, and everyone felt this need to remind me.
It wasn't the best of times to be a Julio. And it didn’t help that every time I had to spell my name for people, I robotically said, “J-sounds like an H-U-L-I-O.”
Then around 2009, a wide receiver from the University of Alabama made it all cool again for me.
Now, I know a lot about Jones’ story and yes, Julio is not his real name, and he is not Latino. His real name is Quintorris Lopez Jones. Julio is a nickname his mother gave him when Jones was in middle school.
But I don’t care.
Ever since he made it big with the Crimson Tide (15 receiving TDs and more than 2,600 receiving yards in his three-year college career), the 27-year-old is one of the NFL’s top receivers. As Atlanta heads into Super Bowl LI, Jones had an “off year” in 2016: 83 catches, 1,409 receiving yards, 6 TDs. But in the past three years, Julio has caught 323 regular-season passes. In a league that at times kills the fun, Jones is electric, unlike any Julio Iglesias song.
It’s cool to be a Julio again.
I mean, are you hearing football announcers saying “Julio” on air with flair? That’s cool.
Or how about when Bruno Mars tells me and other Julios to “get the stretch?” That’s cool, too.
And now when I meet people for the first time, the conversation goes like this:
Hi, I’m Julio.
Like Julio Jones?
Yes, exactly, just like Julio Jones!
So thank you, Julio Jones. Thank you for making me love my name again. You have snatched that Most Famous Julio in the World award away from Julio Iglesias and life is joyous again. However, if you have a career game against the New England Patriots (and I know you have the ability and talent to pull off several big plays this Sunday in Houston), I will kick you out of the Julio Club. I have been a Boston guy since 1986, and loyalty to my name only goes so far.
Tommy Ricardo Varela might not sound great, but if Julio Jones breaks my heart, I might just consider it.