Former Notre Dame running back George Atkinson III dead at 27

Staff reports
ND Insider

Former University of Notre Dame running back George Atkinson III has died at the age of 27.

The exact cause of death has not been released, but he was known to be struggling over the suicide of his twin brother, Josh, a year ago. News of his death started spreading late Monday night.

Both the Atkinson brothers were part of Notre Dame’s 2011 recruiting class.

Atkinson III is the son of former Oakland Raiders safety George Atkinson, who was a part of the Super Bowl XI championship team. After Notre Dame, Atkinson III signed with the Oakland Raiders, later bouncing around to a few other teams.

Atkinson III's mother died a little more than a year ago and not long after that his twin brother, Josh, killed himself.

In an open letter to The Unsealed published a couple of weeks ago, Atkinson III wrote about his struggles in dealing with the pain of losing his mother and brother.

"That's the moment I felt I lost everything," he wrote about his brother's suicide. "That's the moment I can't described. I never want to feel his pain or my pain."

He also mentioned being institutionalized and trying to harm himself.

"Filled with anger and guilt, I was on an emotional roller coaster and in a real dark place," he wrote.

But he found solace in his daughter, 2 at the time, who provided "that second wind of motivation."

Atkinson III finished his Notre Dame career with 943 rushing yards on 153 carries and 10 touchdowns, in primarily a backup role. Atkinson was the team’s leading kickoff returner all three of his seasons for the Irish, including as a sophomore on a 12-1 team that played for the 2012 national title.

Atkinson III’s most impactful season at Notre Dame was his junior year (2013). He was third on the team in rushing that season (555 yards on 93 carries), but his playing time faded late in the season with the rise of Tarean Folston and Cam McDaniel.

He also averaged 25.2 yards on kickoff returns that season and caught seven passes for 51 yards. Atkinson III was suspended for the team’s Pinstripe Bowl appearance at the end of the season, announcing it himself on Twitter.

He announced he was going pro early shortly thereafter and went undrafted in the spring of 2014. He ended up signing with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent that May. Stints with the Cleveland Browns, a second run with the Raiders and a brief time with the Chiefs would follow.

The most recent NFL chance for the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder came in 2018, when he spent a month on the New York Jets’ roster that summer before being released.

Many former Notre Dame and NFL players have taken to social media today as the news spreads.

"With a heavy heart, I send my condolences and prayers to the Atkinson family," Amir Carlisle, tweeted. "Rest in paradise Josh and George."

ND INDSIDER: 12/28/2013: Notre Dame running back George Atkinson III asked coach Brian Kelly toget an evaluation of his skills from the NFL draft advisory board. Notre Dame running back George Atkinson III (4) finds some daylight to run during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, at Notre Dame.