Doug Atkins: Pro Football Hall of Famer dies at age 85

Updated: January 1, 2016
Doug Atkins: Pro Football Hall of Famer dies at age 85

Doug Atkins, a former star Tennessee Vols defensive lineman who earned induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and College Football Hall of Fame, died on Wednesday. He was 85.

According to, Atkins helped lead the Volunteers to a national championship while playing for legendary coach Gen. Robert R. Neyland. Atkins was named an All-American in 1952 and was a two-time All-SEC selection.

“Doug Atkins was one of the best who ever played (at Tennessee),” longtime UTAD administrator Gus Manning said. “He was a real competitor and extremely tough. He was a truly great player, and he was just a good ol’ boy.”

Businessman Jim Haslam played with Atkins, and he issued a statement Wednesday.

“Doug Atkins was one of the greatest football players to ever play at the University of Tennessee. He was a giant of a man with tremendous speed and athletic ability,” the statement reads. “He came to Tennessee on a basketball scholarship and was the first person I ever saw dunk a basketball. He had never high jumped before, but went to Birmingham and won the SEC Championship in that event.

“His place in Tennessee football history is secure.”

Doug Atkins played professionally for the Cleveland Browns, winning the NFL Championship in 1954. He then spent 12 seasons at Chicago, where he won a championship in 1963 and was a three-time All-Pro selection. He finished his career with the New Orleans Saints.

He and Reggie White are the only Tennessee players to be voted into both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Professional Football Hall of Fame. He was also one of the few Vols to have his number, 91, retired.

Doug Atkins, probably one of the most dominant defensive players in SEC history, was the only unanimous selection to the SEC All Quarter-Century Team and was selected as the overall SEC “Player of the Quarter-Century” for the years 1950 to 1975.

Sportact Editors and Wire Services