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RIP George Atkinson III — NFL Player Dead At 27, One Year After His Twin's Suicide

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How Did George Atkinson III Die? New Details On Death Of NFL Player One Year After Twin's Death By Suicide

George Atkinson III, a former college and professional football player, is dead at 27. Atkinson played for Notre Dame in college and the Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets in the NFL. His death comes almost one year after the suicide of his twin brother Josh on Christmas Day 2018. How did George Atkinson III die?

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Josh took his life just a few months after the twins' mother died in October due to complications from Crohn's disease. Their mother also suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. A relative confirmed toThe Athletic that Atkinson III had been dealing with depression over the death of his brother and his mother, according to a tweet from Notre Dame football beat writer Pete Sampson.

Both George and Josh were members of Notre Dame's recruiting class of 2011. Let's take a look at what we know about George Atkinson III's life, family, career and death. 

1. Early life

George Atkinson III (and his twin brother, Josh) was born November 29, 1992 in Oakland, California. He played high school football for the Granada High School Matadors in Livermore, California. He was a running back. He was also a standout athlete on his high school's track and field team, where he was a sprinter. 

2. Notre Dame career

Both George and Josh Atkinson were recruited to the Notre Dame football team in 2011. George was selected to the Freshman All-American second-team by Phil Steele. He was also named an honorable mention to the All-American team at a kickoff returner by Sports Illustrated. Atkinson was also a member of the Fighting Irish track and field team. He ran a career-best 10.36-second 100-meter race at the 2012 Big East Championship.   


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3. NFL Career

George Atkinson III wasn't drafted after college in the 2014 NFL draft. On May 16, 2014, he signed with the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent. He was released by the team on August 30, 2014 and then resigned on September 1st as a member of the practice team. On November 29, 2014 — his birthday — he was signed to the active roster. He was a team member of the Oakland Raiders until September 2016. The Cleveland Browns signed him on September 4, 2016 and he played there until late July 2017. He went back to the Raiders for a few months before moving to the Kansas City Chiefs from September 2017 to April 2018. His final stop in the NFL was with the New York Jets. he was cut from the team on August 31, 2018.

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4. His parents

George Atkinson III's father is former NFL player George Atkinson II, a safety for the Oakland Raiders from 1968 to 1977. His dad was a two-time selection to the Pro Bowl and a member of the Raiders' Super Bowl XI winning team. George and Josh's mother was paranoid schizophrenic and a drug addict. In a letter Atkinson III wrote, he said that his mother suffered from delusions that George and Josh were out to get her. She was frequently institutionalized.

He wrote: "[At 10] I had to call the police on my mom because she was getting violent toward me and my brother. Our lives were never stable. We moved around a lot because my mom wouldn’t be able to pay rent or she would damage the property, writing on the walls. They put my brother and me in special education classes because we weren’t attending school regularly, which affected our self-esteem. For me and my twin brother Josh, each other was really all we had. Through the years we grew closer and closer. But neither of us were ever taught to talk about our feelings. For me, I felt like I had to be this tough guy and show no emotion."


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5. Raised by uncle and dad

George goes on to write that he and Josh were eventually taken away from their mother. "After living with our uncle for almost two years our dad stepped up when we were about 13 and took us in to live with him. Our dad instilled the discipline and guidance that we didn’t have in our lives as young kids. It was also the first time we had real stability, as it was the longest we had ever been at one spot." 

6. Sports was his way out

George and Josh were bigger and faster than anyone else when it came to sports. He knew that he had to get to college in order to play in the NFL. Football motivated him to get good grades and focus on school. George told his guidance counselor that he and his brother wanted to take the classes that would help them get into a good college. The guidance counselor laughed and didn't take him seriously. The twins ended up with scholarship offers from a number of colleges. Josh fell in love with Notre Dame. George wasn't as set on Notre Dame but went there because his brother did. 

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7. His brother's death

Josh Atkinson went missing on Christmas Eve. George tracked him through the GPS in his car. He wrote: "Drunk and upset, he was on the verge of driving to the bridge and doing something stupid. He said he felt guilty because we pulled the plug on our mother’s life support. I told him it was our decision. I reassured him no one is blaming nobody and to snap out of it because it was in God’s hand. I calmed him down and took him home. The next day he hanged himself."

8. George's previous suicide attempt

After his twin's suicide, George fell apart. He was committed to the same institution his mom was once in because he tried to hurt himself. "Filled with anger and guilt, I was on an emotional roller coaster and in a real dark place. His then two-year-old daughter was his reason to keep living. 

9. No cause of death has been released

As of this writing, no cause of death has been released. Our hearts are with George Atkinson III's daughter, his father and his family and friends. 

Amy Lamare is a Los Angeles based writer and editor covering entertainment, pop culture, beauty, fashion, fitness, technology, and the intersection of technology, business, and philanthropy. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook.