With six receptions for 77 yards in Alabama’s 50-17 victory over The Citadel on Saturday, wide receiver Jerry Jeudy became the sixth player in Crimson Tide history to record a 1,000-yard receiving season.
Three of the other five will be on the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday when the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys square off.
Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley play for the Falcons, and Amari Cooper plays for the Cowboys after being obtained in exchange for a first-round draft pick in a trade with the Oakland Raiders on Oct. 22.
“All three of those guys have got some of the same things in common,” Alabama coach Nick Saban told Vaughn McClure of ESPN. “First of all, in maybe a little different way, they’re all extremely talented guys. But these guys all had great intangibles, man. They were the hardest workers on the team. They came to work every day. They challenged themselves every day. They really worked to get better. They had that sort of mentality of, ‘I’m going to be the best player that I can be.’ And they tried to improve every day.”
The three NFL first-round draft picks were never teammates at Alabama.
Jones played at Alabama from 2008 through 2010, with his 1,000-yard season coming in 2010. Cooper played for the Tide from 2012 through 2014, with 1,000-yard seasons in 2012 and 2014. Ridley played for Alabama from 2015 through 2017, with a 1,000-yard season in 2015.
“Obviously we all went to the same school,” Cooper said. “None of us played together, so none of us played on the same field together. That’ll be really cool to go out there and be on the same field with those guys.”
Although the three were never college teammates, they still have an Alabama bond. Ridley met Cooper when the star wide receiver hosted the recruit’s campus visit.
“It was cool — just a couple guys hanging out,” Ridley said. “I was already wanting to go there. I knew that he was leaving because it was his third year. And after that, we stayed in contact a little bit. Just texting, like homeboys. It wasn’t like a tight, tight bond, but he’s my guy.”
Ridley has a different relationship with Jones, who has become “like a big brother” — one that the rookie is eager to make proud.
“He definitely takes control of the room,” Ridley said of Jones, “and it doesn’t matter who you are: He wants you to do well and get better. When we’re on that field, he’s coaching everyone, and it’s just amazing to see Julio Jones out there working just as hard as we are. I really feel like when you’ve got Julio Jones on your team, the expectations in the room are high. We all should go out there and play good — not only for us and the team — but for him.”
At Alabama, Jones caught 179 passes for 2,653 yards and 15 touchdowns, Cooper caught 228 passes for 3,463 yards and 31 touchdowns and Ridley caught 224 passes for 2,781 yards and 19 touchdowns.
“Amari’s always been good,” Jones said. “He’s quiet. He was like me when I was in school, so it wasn’t like I had to coach him up or anything like that. Great receiver, route-running ability, everything, run after catch, all that. It’s just his work ethic. Everything about him — he’s another great one.”
In the NFL, Jones has been All-Pro twice and invited to the Pro Bowl five times. Cooper received Pro Bowl invitations in his first two NFL seasons. Nine games into his first pro campaign, Ridley has 36 receptions for 500 yards and seven touchdowns while Jones is the league leader with 1,040 receiving yards.
The other two Alabama players with 1,000-yard receiving seasons for the Crimson Tide are David Palmer in 1993 and DJ Hall in 2006 and 2007.
Jones and Cooper are two of the four Alabama alumni to record 1,000-yard receiving seasons in the NFL, along with Don Hutson in 1942 and Ozzie Newsome in 1981 and 1984. Jones has six 1,000-yard seasons, and Cooper has two.
Jones has piled up more than 2,000 receiving yards than either Huston or Newsome accumulated during their Pro Football Hall of Fame careers, and he’s closing in on another record for Alabama alumni in the NFL. Jones will enter Sunday’s game with 652 receptions — 10 short of Newsome’s career total, which is the most for a former Crimson Tide player in NFL history.
Sunday’s game isn’t just about the convergence of Alabama receiving greats, of course; it’s shaping up as pivotal to the postseason chances of each team because Atlanta and Dallas enter Sunday’s game with 4-5 records.
“This game on Sunday means a lot for us in terms of playoff position,” Ridley wrote on his officialize.com blog. “We need to keep winning so that we can control our own destiny in getting a playoff spot. One of the other realities is that Dallas could ending up chasing a wild-card spot just like we are. Giving them another loss can only help us in our playoff chase.”
The Cowboys and Falcons kick off at noon CST. FOX affiliates in Alabama are scheduled to broadcast the game.
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.