Former NFL running back George Atkinson III has died at the age of 27 — a year after the suicide of his twin brother on Christmas Day, according to reports.
A cause of death for Atkinson — who was most recently cut by the New York Jets in 2018 — has not been released. But the former Notre Dame product, whose father, George Atkinson, played for the Oakland Raiders, had been struggling with the suicide of his twin brother, Josh, who took his own life Dec. 25, 2018, the South Bend Tribune said.
A relative confirmed Atkinson III’s death to The Athletic late Monday. He had “been dealing with depression” over his brother’s death as well as that of his mother in October 2018 from Crohn’s disease, according to the outlet.
In an open letter published in October by The Unsealed, Atkinson detailed how he coped during the past year, saying he tried to “harm himself” after his brother’s suicide. Both Atkinsons were members of Notre Dame’s 2011 football recruiting class, although George III was the only one to go to the pros.
“Filled with anger and guilt, I was on an emotional roller coaster and in a real dark place,” Atkinson III wrote. “Then, I thought about my ‘why.’ When I played football, helping my mom was my ‘why.’ She was the reason I worked so hard – I wanted to help her. Now, my daughter, who is only two years old, is my ‘why.’”
Atkinson III finished his Notre Dame career with 843 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. He later signed with the Oakland Raiders in 2014 before stints with the Cleveland Browns, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Jets, the South Bend Tribune said.
Atkinson III was cut by New York in September 2018 after a month on the team’s roster.
Former NFL and Notre Dame kicker Kyle Brindza tweeted that news of Atkinson’s death “hurts to hear.”
Other Notre Dame-affiliated accounts also noted the latest tragedy to hit the Atkinsons.
“In the last year, the Atkinson family have lost both Josh and George Atkinson,” Notre Dame Recruiting tweeted. “My heart is broken. Can’t imagine how their family feels. Prayers up to George, Josh, and their family.”