Josh Atkinson, the son of former Oakland Raiders star George Atkinson, has died suddenly at the age of 25, his brother George III confirmed on Dec. 31. No details have been released about the death.
“I can’t put into words the pain that comes with losing my twin brother (Joshua Alexander Atkinson) thank you for the love and support,” wrote George III on Instagram.
“Please keep Josh in your prayers 🙏🏾and respect the space i need to mourn this tragic loss God Bless you all.”
The Atkinson twins stood out for their athletic skills since high school, and they played football together in college at Notre Dame. Josh played as a defensive back and was also a sprinter on the track and field team, according to Bay Area News.
He’s the third Notre Dame player of a similar age to pass away recently, reported The Spun. Defensive tackle Kona Schwenke died in April at 25 and running back Greg Bryant was killed in a shooting in 2016 at age 21.
Really awful news. Former Granada High standout Josh Atkinson, son of ex-Raiders star George Atkinson and twin brother of ex-NFL player George III, passed away at age 25. #RaidersNation https://t.co/WZmEHIqoMx pic.twitter.com/GrlOjj9E9c
— Jon Becker (@JonBecker28) January 1, 2019
George Atkinson played for the Raiders from 1968 to 1977 and was a two-time American Football League All-Star, according to Bleacher Report.
“Known as the ‘Hit Man’ as part of the famed Soul Patrol, Atkinson played in 138 games with 126 starts,” states the team website. “He was a key member of the Raiders Super Bowl XI championship team. He is the 3rd leading punt returner, 7th leading kickoff returner and 5th leading interceptor in team history.”
Atkinson has since reported problems with irritability, depression, and short-term memory loss, according to Mercury News. These symptoms may be attributed to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain condition that could be the result of repeated blows to the head. Other NFL players have experienced similar symptoms.
During his time with the Raiders, Atkinson developed a reputation for rough tackles that he said were necessary to get ahead in the sport. He even reportedly gave two concussions to Pittsburgh receiver Lynn Swann.
“Football is a collision sport,” Atkinson told Mercury News. “If you don’t have a certain mentality you will get run out of the game.”
Atkinson has promised to donate his brain to Boston’s Concussion Legacy Foundation for CTE research when he passes. He has said he wants to be open with his family about the potential effects of football.
“When you have sons do what they want to do, you want them to understand what they are buying into and what could happen—what’s more than likely going to happen,” Atkinson said.
The father helped coach his twin boys at Granada High School in Livermore. He said the sport is more safe now than when he played, with new rules and better equipment.
“They played the game a lot different back in my pop’s days,” his son Josh told Mercury News. “When you know better you do better.”