FORT LAUDERDALE - Whether its football, baseball or basketball, one thing that is very hard for any athlete to do is follow a father who had success in professional sports.
Gene Atkins Jr. is trying to do exactly that this year. Gene Atkins Sr. was a successful NFL safety, and played with the Miami Dolphins. His son Gene is trying to make it to the NFL as well some day.
While Atkins Sr. played safety at the elite level, his son will most likely have to make it in college as a linebacker or possibly even as a defensive end.
Atkins Jr. is a 6-foot-2, 260 pound linebacker. With those statistics, you can see why most colleges may want him to play on the defensive line.
"I have been fortunate to watch Gene the past two seasons and have been in on a growth, a maturity of an athlete," said Florida Kids.us Publisher Larry Blustein, who attends as many off season camps and combines in the state than any one. "He has gotten bigger, stronger and has started to display skills you would expect from someone with such great bloodlines."
As a linebacker last year, Atkins finished the season with 53 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 interception, 4 forced fumbles and 3 pass breakups. He recently took his SAT and is waiting for the results. As a junior Atkins also finished on the 2nd-Team All Broward County and 2nd Team All-Sun-Sentinel.
While he is drawing attention as a linebacker, Atkins told me that it does not matter where he plays in college. He just wants the opportunity to get to the next level and show what he can do.
"I will play where ever my college coaches want me to play," he said. "If that happens to be the defensive line its fine with me."
When it comes to naming a favorite, Atkins is open but here is which schools he likes most:
"I like UM, FSU, Auburn, Georgia Tech and Tennessee," Atkins said. "I want to be an engineer, so Tech is one school I am very interested in."
What will be the factor(s) in choosing a school? "I want to go to a college that stresses the importance of academics and also has a solid football program," said Atkins."
With three of the best offensive linemen in the state of Florida this year, Atkins also told me what it's like to go against Sam Young, Marcus Gilbert and Daniel Wegner every day in practice. Remember, as www.floridakids.us had earlier this week, St. Thomas Aquinas could very well have the best offensive line in the nation!
"It's tough, those guys are the best offensive linemen I will face all year," Atkins said. "The crazy thing is that I have to face them everyday in practice. All three are great athletes and will be among the best at their positions this year."
As he departed and headed to work out, there was one more thing on Atkins' mind. It was about the loss to Lakeland in last season's 5A finals. It was a game that put the Raiders in a position they are not used to being in.
"Getting back to the state championship game is real important to me and to this team," Atkins said. "Lakeland beat us bad last year and we want another shot at them."
THE ATKINS' FILE: As of right now, he has no solid offers from colleges, but look that to change in the spring and into the summer.
In addition, he has already signed up to attend the University of Miami football camp in June.
Charles Fishbein is a recruiting analyst for www.floridakids.us. He also writes columns for. He has become one of the premier high school football columnists in the nation. Look soon for his 2005 NFL Draft Booklet, which will be released next week. You can contact him at CFishbein@aol.com.
MORE FISHBEIN STORIES:
HIDDEN GEM: HECTOR HERNANDEZ
IMMOKALEE: NICE GUYS DO FINISH FIRST
POMPANO BEACH ELY RUNNING BACKS
IN THE TRENCHES
SOUTH FLORIDA LINEMEN – PART I
SOUTH FLORIDA LINEMEN – PART II
SOUTH FLORIDA LINEMEN – PART III
IN THE HUDDLE – TYLER RICE
IN THE HUDDLE – KENRICK ELLIS
IN THE HUDDLE – EMMANUEL COOK
IN THE HUDDLE – KEVIN HOLLOWAY
PALM BEACH LAKES
KICKIN' UP A STORM
STEPPING OUF THE SHADOW: Gene Atkins Jr.
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