VETTEL: Atkins' Death a Tragedy, Waste

It's seems surreal to sit here and write something about the death of a 20-year-old former Gator football player. It's the worst thing those of us in the media ever have to do, but we must.

Avery Atkins was found dead in his car Thursday morning ending one of the most unusual sagas I can remember. It's a tragedy for those who knew and loved this often engaging young man. It's also a terrible waste of talent and potential.

Avery Atkins was the star of Florida's 2005 recruiting class. A terrific cornerback from Daytona Beach Mainland, Atkins was considered a sure fire star by most in the recruiting game. From day one on campus, it was clear Atkins, ranked the ninth-best corner in the country as a high school senior was under-rated. Atkins was as good as or better than Dee Webb or any other corner I have seen as a true freshman. He had the speed, quickness and hip swivel you love to see in corners. Atkins started three games in that 2005 seasons and seemed destined for greatness. He was also a personable kid who was easy to talk with.

But trouble began haunting Atkins during spring practice, apparently tied to his impending fatherhood. He struggled with the pressure he was feeling from all angles and made a succession of mistakes that doomed his Gator career. Atkins was released by UF in June of 2006, but quickly caught on at Bethune Cookman for a few days. He ended up leaving the Wildcats and just a few days ago appeared to have hit rock bottom when he was arrested for possession of crack cocaine.

If only it had been so. Atkins may have died of an accidental overdose, or some combination of drugs and alcohol. Law enforcement reports indicate there was no visible trauma to his body. It may be awhile before we know for certain what took the life of this gifted but troubled young man.

Florida did what it could for Avery and I'm sure the folks at BCC did, too. If anything positive can come from this it might be the message to young athletes that they are not invincible. Nor are they immune to the stresses and pressures that come from life altering mistakes whether the mistake is premature parenthood or messing around with potentially deadly chemicals.

May God bless you, Avery. I wish we had gotten to see what you could have become.

Post your thoughts on Avery Atkins

Fightin Gators Top Stories