Doug Atkins originally went to the University of Tennessee on a basketball scholarship, but once Gen. Robert R. Neyland, the football coach, saw his combination of size and agility, he was recruited for the grid team.
The Cleveland Browns selected him as their first choice in the 1953 National Football League Draft.
After two seasons in Cleveland, he was traded to the Chicago Bears and there he developed into one of history's most awesome defensive performers.
Exceptionally strong and agile, the 6-8, 257-pound Atkins earned legendary acclaim as a devastating pass rusher who would often leapfrog blockers to get at the passer.
Linemen who faced Atkins usually had just one thought in mind: “Don’t make him mad.”
It was common knowledge among players that as tough as Doug was, he was even tougher when angered.
For 17 years and 205 games, Doug wrecked absolute havoc on opposing linemen, quarterbacks, and ball carriers.
An outspoken free spirit, Doug often clashed with the Bears’ fiery head coach George Halas. Atkins’ easy-going approach to practice particularly annoyed the coach.
An All-NFL choice four times and a veteran of eight Pro Bowls, Atkins wound up his career with three successful seasons with the New Orleans Saints.
Atkins with his HOF presenter, Edward W. McCaskey.