Hall of Fame defensive end Doug Atkins died Wednesday in Knoxville, Tennessee, of natural causes. He was 85.
A person familiar with the matter told the Associated Press that Atkins died at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center.
Atkins, who played for the Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints, spent 17 seasons in the NFL. He made eight Pro Bowl teams, was a seven-time AP All-Pro selection (one first team, six second teams) and won two NFL championships.
Listed at 6'8" and 257 pounds, Atkins was an imposing physical force when player sizes paled in comparison to today's talent. He played before sacks were an official statistic, so his career numbers aren't entirely known. But it's clear based on his longevity and awards that he made an indelible impact.
Nearly all of Atkins' noteworthy success came in Chicago, where he spent a dozen years wreaking havoc. Atkins made each of his Pro Bowl teams and received all but one of his All-Pro selections with the Bears, getting selected to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1960s in the process.
"Doug Atkins was a tremendous athlete, one of the best defensive linemen I've ever seen," Gus Manning, a former University of Tennessee sports information director, said when the university retired his number, per the Volunteers' official website. "He was very versatile. He was big, strong and powerful. He was so strong it was unbelievable. Offensive linemen just couldn't block him. He'd just throw them out of the way."
The university officially retired his jersey in 2005. The Saints retired his No. 81 despite his having played only three seasons with the then-expansion franchise.
NFL.com ranked him as the seventh-best pass-rusher in league history. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
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