Doug Atkins (Doug Leon Atkins)

Doug Atkins

The Cleveland Browns selected Doug Atkins with the 11th overall selection in the 1953 NFL draft. He played his first two seasons in the NFL with the Browns, winning the NFL Eastern Conference in 1953, and the NFL Championship in 1954. The Browns traded Atkins and Ken Gorgal to the Chicago Bears for a third-round and a sixth-round pick in the 1956 NFL draft. In Chicago, Atkins quickly became the leader of a devastating defensive unit. With the Bears, Atkins was a First Team All-Pro selection in 1958, 1960, 1961, and 1963, along with being a starter in the Pro Bowl in eight of his last nine years with Chicago. At the 1966 Pro Bowl, Doug Atkins announced his retirement from football. He changed his mind and signed with the Bears for the 1966 season. Before the 1967 season, Atkins requested a trade from Chicago and was traded to the New Orleans Saints. He suffered a fractured knee cap during the 1968 season. He retired after the 1969 season. On the final play of his NFL career, Atkins sacked Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Dick Shiner, preserving the Saints’ 27–24 victory in the 1969 season finale.

Doug Atkins was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1985. He has also been inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame. His collegiate jersey number, #91, was retired by the University of Tennessee in 2005. Even though he only played three seasons for New Orleans, the club retired his #81, one of two numbers originally retired by the franchise. The other, #31, belongs to Hall of Fame fullback Jim Taylor, a long-time rival of Atkins during Taylor’s days with the Green Bay Packers. The NFL Network ranked him as the number 9 Pass Rusher of All Time in its Top Ten show. Atkins married twice. His first wife was from Humboldt, and he married his second wife, from Milan, Tennessee, after the death of his first wife. After he retired from the NFL, Atkins worked in various jobs, including as an exterminator, as a pipe system manager, and selling caskets to funeral homes. Doug Atkins died of natural causes at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, on December 30, 2015, at the age of 85. He was survived by his wife, brother, and son.

More Images

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  • May, 08, 1930
  • USA
  • Humboldt, Tennessee


  • December, 12, 2015
  • USA
  • Knoxville, Tennessee

Cause of Death

  • natural causes

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