After he earned All-American honors at the University of Tennessee, the Cleveland Browns selected him as their first choice in the 1953 National Football League Draft.
Atkins was traded to the Chicago Bears for the start of the 1955 season. He developed into one of NFL's best defensive performers.
Exceptionally strong and agile, the 6'8", 257-pound Atkins was a devastating pass rusher who would often leapfrog the O-line to get at the passer. That was a skill that carried over from his collegiate days when he won the SEC high jump title.
For 17 years, Doug wrecked absolute havoc on opposing linemen, quarterbacks, and ball carriers. Linemen who faced Atkins always concentrated on not making Atkins angry. It was common knowledge that as tough as Doug was, he was twice as tough when angered.
Atkins, who was selected to eight Pro Bowls, finished his career with three successful seasons as a New Orleans Saint.
After Atkins finally retired following the 1969 season, legendary Bears' coach George Halas openly admitted, “There never was a better defensive end.”