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Doug Atkins, Pro Football Hall of Famer and original Saint, dies at 85

A look back at the NFL career of former Saints Hall of Famer and defensive end Doug Atkins. Associated Press photos.

Former New Orleans Saints defensive end Doug Atkins – who played for the Black and Gold from 1967-69, was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982 - died Wednesday at the age of 85 at his home in Knoxville, Tenn.

Atkins played for the Saints in the franchise's first three seasons after being acquired in a trade from the Chicago Bears on July 16, 1967 during the team's first training camp.

"The New Orleans Saints extend our sincere sympathies to the family of Doug Atkins. Long before taking the field as a member of our first team in 1967 and serving as a leader for our first three seasons, he had established himself as one of the National Football League's all-time great defensive lineman. This would later be rewarded by his worthy selection into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He holds a special place in our club's early history and will always be remembered."

Atkins was born and raised in Tennessee, where he attended the University of Tennessee. After originally arriving in Knoxville as a basketball player, Atkins' 6-foot-8 build quickly transitioned to the gridiron and he was an All-American selection as a senior in 1952. He would eventually be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Atkins was selected by the Cleveland Browns with the 11th pick in the 1953 NFL Draft. He played two years for the Browns and then was traded to Chicago, where he played for 14 seasons and was selected to the Pro Bowl eight times and was an All-Pro selection three times. In 1963, he was an integral part of a Bears team that gave up an average of 10 points a game and defeated the New York Giants 14-10 for the NFL championship.

After being traded to New Orleans, Atkins played in 39 games, capping a 205-contest career as the Saints increased their win total each season. In 1968, he was an All-Pro selection and was named the NFL's Vince Lombardi Award Winner as the NFL's most dedicated player. Atkins announced his retirement after the 1969 season and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982, the second player who ever played for the Saints to receive this honor.

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