Deion Jones was more of a Baltimore Ravens fan than a Saints fan as a kid, in large part because the budding linebacker loved Ravens legend Ray Lewis, but his family was full of diehard Saints fans.
But nobody will be conflicted when New Orleans travels to the Georgia Dome to take on Jones and the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
The former Jesuit and LSU star has blossomed into one of the league's most productive rookies with 100 tackles, eight passes defended, four tackles-for-loss and three interceptions, two that he took back for touchdowns, including a 90-yard pick-six against the Saints in the first meeting between the two teams.
"It's not going to be for the hometown team, I'm sorry," Jones said. "We have fully converted to Falcons fans. I'm sorry. They were diehard Saints fans. Now, it's blood is thicker than water."
As good as Jones has been as a rookie, he's surpassed even his own expectations.
Jones was lucky to enter a Falcons locker room that already had a couple of veteran leaders at linebacker. Veteran linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and Paul Worrilow, plus safety Ricardo Allen, have helped Jones learn the ropes.
"The only thing that made this a little bit easier has been the leadership in this locker room," Jones said. It wasn’t all me, because they say you’re a fool if you think you have it by yourself, and I always give those guys props, because I feel without them, it would have been a real rocky road."
Atlanta was confident enough that Jones would navigate the road well that the Falcons installed him at middle linebacker, entrusting controls of the defense to a rookie.
For some rookies, the information can be overwhelming, but Jones is starting to come into his own, and it's allowed his incredible speed and natural gifts to show up more than most first-year players.
"Here's what I'm most pumped about," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "I'd say over the last five weeks, he has really found his voice, and that allows other people around you to play faster. ... The run and hit factor for Deion has totally come to life."