LOS ANGELES: Hall of Famer Doug Atkins, an imposing pass rusher who inspired fear in opposing offenses for 17 NFL seasons, most notably with the Chicago Bears, died on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) at the age of 85.
“Doug Atkins is an all-time great who will be remembered as one of the pillars of the 1963 championship Bears,” Bears chairman George H. McCaskey said in a statement after the Hall of Fame confirmed that Atkins died in Knoxville, Tennessee. “He had a freakish combination of size and athletic ability and was as tough as anyone who ever stepped on a football field.”
At 6-feet-8-inches, Atkins was a towering figure among his contemporaries on the field from the early 1950s to the late 1960s.
When he played, quarterback sacks were not yet an official statistic, but Atkins once reckoned that in a few of his 12 seasons with the Bears he might have had as many as 25 — which would be an NFL record today.
He won an NFL championship with the Cleveland Browns in 1954 and in 1963 with Chicago, where he starred for 12 seasons before ending his career with the expansion New Orleans Saints.
He helped the University of Tennessee to a national collegiate title in 1951. While at the university in his home state he also played basketball and won a regional high jump title.
Among his trademark moves was leaping over offensive linemen to get to the opposing quarterback.
Former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton called Atkins a “physical marvel of our era.”
“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,” Hall of Fame President David Baker said. “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.”