Pro Football Hall of Famer , one of the most devastating pass rushers ever to play in the National Football League, passed away on Wednesday morning at the age of 85.
The defensive end terrorized quarterbacks during his illustrious career with the Cleveland Browns (1953-54), (1955-1966) and New Orleans Saints (1967-69). During his 12-year stint in Chicago, he was the ringleader of the Bears powerful defensive units and was a key part of the team that won the league championship in 1963.
“Doug was a big, tough man whose extraordinary greatness dominated the field of play during a legendary 17-year career that earned him a bronzed bust in Canton. He also possessed a tender heart and always epitomized with grace the many values he learned from the game such as dedication, teamwork, commitment, and respect,” Hall of Fame President David Baker stated. “The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns Doug’s passing and will keep his wife Sylvia and family in our thoughts and prayers and forever guard his legacy in Canton.”
Atkins did not originally set out to be a football star. He attended the University of Tennessee on a basketball scholarship, but once the football coach saw his combination of size and agility, he was recruited for the grid team. After he earned All-American honors, the Cleveland Browns selected him as the 11th overall choice in the 1953 NFL Draft.
After two seasons in Cleveland, he was traded to the Bears and it was in the “Windy City” that he developed into one of history's most awesome defensive performers. Exceptionally strong and agile, the 6-8, 257-pound Atkins would often leapfrog blockers to get at the passer as well as to bat down passes at the line of scrimmage. That was a skill that carried over from his collegiate days when he won the Southeastern Conference high jump title.
An All-NFL choice four times and a veteran of eight Pro Bowls, Atkins ended his career with three final seasons with the expansion Saints. His 17 years on the field was second in the NFL’s record book at the time and his 205 games were third among all players.
The Bears’ legendary founder owner and coach George Halas easily summed Atkins career when he once stated, “There never was a better defensive end.”
Atkins poses with his Hall of Fame presenter, Edward W. McCaskey
Atkins, a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1960s, was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 1982.
The family has requested that donations be made to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinees Assistance Fund, 2121 George Halas Drive NW, Canton, OH 44708.
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