NEW ORLEANS — Eleven years ago, Deion Jones had to run. Hurricane Katrina forced Jones (who was only 11 at the time) and his parents to evacuate New Orleans and begin living a nomadic existence in Mississippi and Texas before eventually moving back home and reuniting with other family members and friends.
Jones ran again Monday night. But this time, in the same building that served as a shelter for hurricane victims, the Falcons’ rookie linebacker lived out a dream, not a nightmare.
He intercepted a tipped pass thrown by New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees — who hadn’t been intercepted in 305 consecutive attempts — and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown, cementing the Falcons’ 45-32 win over the Saints in the Superdome.
These are the cool moments that only sports can provide.
“It was electric. It was a dream come true,” Jones said.
Brees’ pass, intended for receiver Michael Thomas, was broken up by rookie defensive back Brian Poole. The ball popped up, Jones grabbed it and suddenly his feet seemed to have jets. He sprinted 90 yards in the other direction.
“I was kind of tired at the end,” he said.
Magic cleats carried him.
They were decorated, with the abbreviation “NOLA” on one side and a large red ‘X’ on the other, along with a random letters and numbers. The ‘X’ symbolized what rescue workers painted on the sides of homes after they were searched for survivors. Among the survivors was Jones’ grandmother, Montrell Jones, who stubbornly wouldn’t leave her home and had been missing for a few days until later being found. She eventually was found and the family reunited in Houston, although she later passed away.
Jones was mobbed by teammates on the sideline after the touchdowns, particularly by Weatherspoon, who picked him up.
Jones told him, “That’s for his grandma.”
“To come back home like that is special after what he and his family went through,” Weatherspoon said. “To ball out like that on the big stage … and he makes the play to win the game.”
Jones had several family members at the game, and said, “I was glad my whole family was here to see it and be a part of it. I got great support from the guys on the sideline. ‘Spoon got a little emotional, but it was great.”
He said he thought about decorating his cleats early in the week, talking to Falcons assistant equipment manager Kenny Osuwah.
“They had a bunch of designs and I went with this one,” he said. “I just did it as a reminder. It was my tribute to my city — but in the opposite colors (of the Falcons).”
A happy moment for Jones and his family.
EARLIER: My full column on the Falcons’ win is linked here.
- Falcons create a new memory for themselves in New Orleans
- Falcons can’t create more happy memories for Saints
- LSU just fired Les Miles — this is what lunacy looks like
- New Georgia looks a lot like the old Georgia
- Jacob Eason wasn’t good but this isn’t time to blame quarterback
- Weekend Predictions: NCAA over Ole Miss but Ole Miss over Dogs
- Credit Georgia Tech for going after the right choice in Stansbury
- Overreaction Monday: Everybody wins! What can possibly go wrong?
- Falcons’ 35 points, 528 yards should quiet criticism of Shanahan
- Falcons put on an offense show — and, yes, win
- Falcons try to avoid going from 0-1 to off the rails
- Weekend Predictions: Dogs rebound, Jackets win, Falcons fall
- Coppollella acknowledges on Twitter starters have been disappointing
- Politicians need to understand: Sports has a hammer — get used to it
- Overreaction Monday: Red zone, tackling and can anybody run block?
- As season opens, it’s Mike Smith 1, Falcons 0
- Georgia exposed by opponent it should’ve easily handled
- Smart’s limited media access accomplishing nothing
- Weekend Predictions: Falcons over their exes; Dogs, Jackets cover
- Mets sign Tebow but he looks more like ‘Sideshow Tim’ than player
- If Braves sign Tebow, it’s about circus and revenue, not baseball