Doug Atkins, one of Tennessee’s most dominant athletes, has died, the school announced Wednesday. He was 85.
Some people contend Atkins, who came from Humboldt, Tenn., to Tennessee on a basketball scholarship, was the greatest defensive end in football history. When all-time memorable Vols come up, Atkins stands right alongside the greats of Tennessee football folklore, like Peyton Manning, Reggie White and even Gen. Robert Neyland.
Atkins’ athletic ability for a big man was said to be breathtaking. He was considered years – if not decades – ahead of his time. His signature move was hurdling offensive linemen.
Atkins’ list of football accomplishments is as tall as he was. At Tennessee, the 6-foot-8 Atkins was named to two All-SEC teams and an All-American in 1952. He was named to the All-SEC Quarter Century Team and was awarded SEC Player of the Quarter Century (1950-74). He was also selected to the All-Time All-SEC Team (1933-82). With Atkins at defensive end, the Vols went 29-3-1 and won the national title in 1951.
Atkins’ domination continued in professional football. He first played for the Cleveland Browns and helped them to an NFL Championship in 1954. Then, Atkins played 12 seasons for the Chicago Bears. Atkins was a member of the Bears’ 1963 team that won the NFL Championship. Atkins made eight appearances in the Pro Bowl, including seven straight. He finished his pro career playing three years for the expansion New Orleans Saints.
He and Reggie White are the only Tennessee players to ever be voted into both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Professional Football Hall of Fame.