ALAMEDA — Former Raiders cornerback George Atkinson, Jr., who often attends the team’s practices, decided to stay home today. He wasn’t sick, nor feeling lethargic.
No, his son, George Atkinson III partook in his first practice with the Silver and Black, and dad wanted him to be his own man.
Atkinson III said:
“He told me yesterday, ‘I’m not going to come out. I know you’re expecting me to come, but this is your moment and you need to be a man about it as an individual and I’m not going to be here to pressure you.’ He’ll have a chance to come out and see me.”
The elder Atkinson played his rookie season for the Raiders in 1968, starting six games and recording four interceptions. 10 seasons later, he’d picked off 30 passes, two for touchdowns, before finally hanging up his Oakland uniform in 1977.
His namesake will have an opportunity to produce for the Raiders if he makes the team, and the son says he’ll do it anyway he can:
“If it’s kickoff, punt block or punt, I’m looking at special teams as a definite way to get on the field and contribute early to this team.”
Atkinson III ran a 4.48 40-yard dash at the NFL combine but went undrafted because of a saturated running back market.
During his senior season at Notre Dame, Atkinson III averaged six yards per carry and scored three touchdowns on 93 attempts.
A standout at Granada High in Livermore, California, Atkinson III ran the ball 172 times for 1,669 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior in 2010, playing running back, wide receiver and defensive back.
But Atkinson III says that’s the past and he’s trying to make his own mark:
“I’ve looked up to this organization and this club for along time and there was no part of that going on with me. I’ve looked up to my dad and wanted to follow in his footsteps but also lead my own trail at the same time. You’ve got to find that balance and that’s what I’m trying to do right now.”
Atkinson III could have a decent chance of making the squad according to coach Dennis Allen, which is still filled with needs and in it’s first year of the “building process.” Allen said:
“He’s a talented athlete and he’s got a lot of speed, and he has the ability to help us on special teams. I think any time you have a chance to get a legacy, somebody who has the Raider bloodlines, you do it because those guys understand what it means to be a Raider.”
And while Atkinson III wants to blaze his own path, being a Raider wasn’t much of a discussion. Once it became clear that he was going undrafted, therefore being able to choose a team to sign with, both father and son knew it was going to happen.
Asked which one, father or son, was more excited that he’d be coming to Oakland, Atkinson III said:
“I think it was a draw. I could see it in his face. Right after the draft, he knew I was coming here without any doubt, so we both basked in the moment.”
Should he make the 53-man roster, Atkinson III will have to fight hard for playing time. New addition Maurice Jones-Drew and longtime Raiders back Darren McFadden will likely lead the running back committee, while Latavius Murray and Kory Sheets remain in the mix.
Atkinson III will have a chance to show off in a series of organized team activities and minicamps, before truly showing what he has when the Raiders open their training camp in July.