Former Notre Dame running back George Atkinson III passed away Monday at 27, according to multiple reports. Atkinson’s twin brother, Josh, died a bit less than a year ago.
George Atkinson starred for the Irish on kickoff returns as a freshman in 2011 before playing a key role in the backfield in 2012 and 2013.
Atkinson’s mother suffered from paranoid schizophrenia when the twins were young and passed away due to complications from Crohn’s disease shortly before Josh’s death, as George detailed in a personal, open letter to “kids going through time times” in October.
“Like you, I am still struggling,” Atkinson wrote. “My mother’s birthday just passed and I know the holidays this year won’t be easy. But I am trying to take life one day at a time.”
The son and namesake of Oakland Raiders defensive back legend George Atkinson II, the Third never became the lead running back largely expected when he arrived at Notre Dame. He returned kickoffs for touchdowns against Michigan State and USC as a freshman, the latter moment arguably the highlight of his career.
After jumping to the NFL with a year of eligibility remaining, Atkinson played five games for the Raiders in 2014 and bounced around practice squads before taking seven carries for 34 yards and a touchdown for the Cleveland Browns in 2016.
Atkinson’s Notre Dame stats:
2011: 13 games, 9 rushes for 27 yards and 2 touchdowns; 1 reception for 10 yards.
2012: 13 games, 51 rushes for 361 yards and 5 touchdowns; 2 receptions for 4 yards.
2013: 12 games, 93 rushes for 555 yards and 3 scores; 7 receptions for 51 yards; suspended for the Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers due to a violation of team rules.
Atkinson’s collegiate return stats:
2011: 35 returns with a 26.1 yards average and two scores.
2012: 22 returns with a 20.0 yards average.
2013: 31 returns with a 25.2 yards average.