Jarrett takes life lesson from first Pro Bowl selection

Falcons defensive lineman Grady Jarrett describes how it felt to find out from teammate Julio Jones that he had been selected for the Pro Bowl. (Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter)

Before the news spread, Julio Jones sent Grady Jarrett a text message on Tuesday.

The Pro Bowl announcements were about to be made public and Jones wanted to be one of the first to congratulate Jarrett. Both Falcons were named to the Pro Bowl, Jones for the seventh time, Jarrett for the first.

“It felt good to have him send that congratulations,” Jarrett said. “He told me that it was long overdue.”

It meant a lot to Jarrett to hear from Jones.

“He’s a guy that exemplifies what it means to be a true pro, day-in, day-out,” Jarrett said. “To make seven Pro Bowls means a lot. To work every day like you’re a practice squad dude trying to make the team is impressive. He’s a guy that definitely sets an example. He’s a guy that I’ve watched from afar when I first came in and still today about what it means to be a pro.”

Jones has 82 catches for 1,105 yards and six touchdowns this season.

“(The selection) does mean a lot because it’s from your peers,” Jones said. “It kind of gets over looked because it’s a game that guys don’t want to get hurt going into the offseason. But it’s a great honor to be selected. I’m humbled.”

Jarrett has been overlooked the past two seasons when he had Pro Bowl level production.

“It’s means a lot,” Jarrett said. “It’s been a lot of hard work. It’s something that I can definitely take pride in that was accomplished. I want to continue to do it for years to come.”

For Jarrett, who played at Rockdale County High and was a fifth-round pick out of Clemson in 2015, it’s been a steady climb up the NFL ladder.

Jarrett played in 15 games and made two starts as a rookie. He started 14 of 16 games in 2016 and all three playoff games. He started to get some national recognition after he tied a Super Bowl record with three sacks in Super Bowl LI.

“I feel like there is a lot out there for me, things I want to continue to strive for and I’m going to continue to strive for until I can’t do this (any) more,” Jarrett said. “I’m excited for what the future holds. This is just the beginning. I’m excited to keep working.”

In 2017, he started all 16 games and had 55 tackles, four sacks, 14 tackles for losses and 13 quarterback hits, all Pro Bowl level numbers. In 2018, he started all 14 games he played in and had six sacks, 52 tackles, eight tackles for losses and 16 quarterback hits.

“It’s definitely a good feeling, but it’s not surprising to me nor my family,” Jarrett said. “Like I tell people all of the time, whether if I was taken in the first round or the fifth round or undrafted, my story until this point was going to be the be same. I’m not surprised. Maybe it’s a surprise to some other people.

“I always believed in myself and what I could do. I know there is still a lot out there for me. I’m driven to try to push myself to find out what that is.”

Nothing has come easy for Jarrett, who was a three-star recruit by rivals.com and the 41st rated tackle in the nation by scout.com coming out of high school.

“I just kept going to work,” Jarrett said. “Control what you can control. It gives me motivation to rack up some more (Pro Bowl selections) in the years to come. Most importantly, just be a great player to serve my team so that eventually we can get to a championship. With me being the best me that I could be, that’s going to make my team better.”

Falcons coach Dan Quinn also said he believes Jarrett’s selection was overdue.

“It was frustrating because you feel like you are doing everything that you can to try to get that recognition and you think about all of the work that you put in,” Jarrett said. “You feel like, dang, I did my part to get what I was looking for.”

Jarrett believes his triumph could be uplifting to others.

“At the moment, it was discouraging, but you’ve got to go back to work,” Jarrett said. “I feel that’s an important lesson, a life lesson. So many people work so hard day-in and day-out and don’t get the results that they want.

“They end up quitting and never pushing themselves to try to find out what they could have done. The truth of it is, you’re really are that close to achieving your dreams and what you want to do.

“Even when you are pushing and things didn’t go your way, you have to dig deeper, keep going and keep going. As long as you did your best at the end of the day. That’s all that matters.”

Jarrett didn’t get depressed as he was bypassed.

“I went back to work and found out what I could do better,” Jarrett said. “I was able to come out and make my first Pro Bowl. I’m definitely excited about it. I definitely feel like it was overdue, but there is no excuse for anything because the guys who got in there they worked their tails off too.

“Nothing was owed to me. I had to go back and go back to work. No entitlement or anything. Definitely grinded it out and worked for it. It’s a good taste that I want to continue to taste for years to come.”

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