Future Hall of Famer Julio Jones Inspires Eagles Rookie Joseph Ngata
Sometimes at Eagles practice these days, you have to do a double take. Are there two of Julio Jones out there? Nope. There’s the future Hall of Famer wearing No. 80 in an Eagles uniform. And then there’s undrafted practice squad rookie Joseph Ngata, his body double, wearing No. 86.
Ngata, 22, has been amazed by the similarities between himself and Jones. “It’s kind of scary how similar we are, just in terms of the way we look and in terms of the way we do things in practice,” Ngata said last week. “I try to copy everything he does.”
Ngata isn’t the only one who has noticed the similarities. His teammates and coaches have also remarked on the uncanny resemblance. Standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing 217 pounds, Ngata is almost identical to Jones, with the only difference being 12 years and a Hall of Fame career.
Despite the similarities, Ngata is relishing the opportunity to learn from one of the all-time greats at the position. Ngata has always looked up to Jones and now finds himself sharing a position room with him.
“Of course. Of course,” Ngata said. “I watched him a bunch and modeled my game after him. Now he’s my teammate. I get firsthand access to him and get to soak up all the knowledge from him.”
Julio Jones, 34, is the NFL’s active leader in receptions and receiving yards and will one day be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This deep into his career, it’s hard to find a more respected and revered player in the Eagles’ locker room. The team’s reaction a couple of weeks ago when Jones caught a touchdown pass in Washington speaks volumes.
But Ngata sees Jones as more than just a great player. He sees him as a person first and has enjoyed being around him since Jones arrived last month. Although they were briefly teammates on the Eagles’ practice squad, Jones has since taken a spot on the 53-man roster.
“When he walked in, he was actually really kind and really open,” Ngata said. “That’s the first thing I noticed. Obviously, he’s had a historic career. But I feel like I’ve been playing football for a while. I’m gonna be around a lot of great football players and I’ve been around a lot of great football players. I feel like just getting to know him on a personal level.”
Ngata describes Jones as kind, nice, and funny. “He smiles a lot. I like being around people who smile a lot.”
As a younger child, Ngata looked up to receivers like Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne, and Marvin Harrison. It wasn’t until he was a little older that Jones became another player to model his game after.
The Eagles signed Ngata this spring after he went undrafted out of Clemson. Despite not hearing his name called during the draft, Ngata has found himself in a great situation in Philly. He can learn from some of the game’s great receivers, including one who already likely has his ticket punched to Canton.
When asked about what Jones has been teaching him, Ngata mentioned footwork as a key focus. “I’ve been trying to get my footwork right, whether it’s blocking or other aspects of the game. I’ve been watching him closely and asking him questions. Having A.J. and DeVonta in the room also helps. I’ve been trying to learn from everyone’s game, and it’s been beneficial for me.”
Joseph Ngata is making the most of his opportunity to learn from a future Hall of Famer and is grateful for the chance to be teammates with Julio Jones. With his dedication and the guidance he receives, Ngata has the potential to make a name for himself in the NFL.