The New Orleans Saints found a future star when they took a seventh-round flyer on Gene Atkins. The former Florida A&M standout quickly earned widespread respect for his ability to deliver bone-crunching hits from the safety position.
However, less than a decade after he retired from the Miami Dolphins, Atkins found himself in the headlines for another violent encounter.
Gene Atkins made a big impact during his 10-year NFL career
After entering the NFL as the 179th overall pick of the 1987 NFL draft, Gene Atkins wasted no time making his presence known. Despite his late-round draft status, he earned plenty of playing time. The 5-foot-11, 201-pound defensive back recorded seven interceptions in 29 games (11 starts) through his first two years in the league.
Having established himself as a full-time starter by his third NFL season, Atkins never missed a game from 1990-93. During that stretch, he patrolled the secondary for a Saints squad that routinely made the playoffs.
In 1991, led the league with 198 return yards off a career-high five interceptions. The Saints finished the season ranked No. 1 in scoring defense, but the team experienced a quick postseason exit.
Following a highly productive seven-year run in New Orleans, Atkins made his way down to Miami. He recorded 152 tackles, four interceptions, and four forced fumbles in 31 games before retiring after the 1996 season.
The former Saints star was involved in a scary domestic dispute with his wife that included a violent encounter with police
Eight years after he played his final NFL snap, Gene Atkins got arrested and charged with 20 criminal counts, including battery, false imprisonment, and resisting arrest with violence.
According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Atkins’ wife called 911 shortly after 10 p.m. on May 23, 2004, after her husband chased her into a bedroom. She told police he hit her in the face, choked her, pushed her into a wall, and tried to keep her from leaving their home.
When police arrived, the situation only escalated.
After refusing to follow arrest orders, Atkins punched an officer in the neck and slammed the front door. His wife gave police keys to enter the home. When they entered, Atkins was at the top of the stairway brandishing four knives. Officers shot him with a Taser, but the former NFL player crawled down the hallway and went into another bedroom.
An officer then kicked down the door. Atkins responded by shoving him into a bathroom and fleeing to another bedroom that he barricaded himself in for several hours before surrendering.
Atkins avoided jail time by agreeing to a plea deal
Gene Atkins’ violent encounter with his wife and the police resulted in a long list of criminal charges. However, the father of current NFL lineman Geno Atkins avoided jail time by agreeing to a plea deal.
On Feb. 1, 2006, the Associated Press reported Atkins received a sentence of three years’ probation. Broward Circuit Judge Geoffrey Cohen agreed to withhold adjudication, which meant the charges of domestic battery, battery of a law enforcement officer, and resisting arrest without violence would not appear on Atkins’ record after his probation concluded.
He reportedly could have faced five years in prison if convicted on all 20 of the charges brought against him.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.