Atkins #2

An interview with Hall of Fame Defensive End Doug Atkins. Atkins examines the years following his retirement from the NFL, which have been largely comprised of an odyssey of different careers in all parts of the country. Atkins also discusses his short turn as an actor, as well as his time with the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns.

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01:19Copy video clip URL Sitting in an easy chair in his living room, famed Defensive End Doug Atkins tells about his brief stint in Hollywood. He recalls that his role in the 1975 film Breakheart Pass came about when the director, Tom Gries, asked him to come out on location. “For three weeks, I didn’t do nothing but go to the steam bath and steal X number of dollars.” After ten weeks of shooting, Gries told Atkins that he would get him another role in his next film, but passed away from a heart attack a few years later.

02:18Copy video clip URL His role in Breakheart Pass called for Atkins to ride a horse, which he had never learned to do. He mentions an anecdote where the other members of the cast and crew on the film poked fun at his inability to ride, as he was a Tennessee native whom they believed would be a natural horse rider.

03:10Copy video clip URL Atkins recalls the numerous and diverse careers he has had since retiring from professional football. He says that he regrets not taking the advice given to him by veteran football players at the time, telling him to be prepared to find a job after his football playing days were over.  He then proceeds to tell about his final years in the NFL on the New Orleans Saints, where, though he was still in good physical shape, Atkins was allowed to work at his own pace, being a 14 year veteran of the game. Atkins retired after numerous injuries in his last few seasons with the Saints.

05:14Copy video clip URL Atkins talks about the years following his retirement from football. After taking a year off, Atkins says that  many people believed that he had made enough money playing football to have no need to seek out a part time job, which he states was simply not the case.  He also discusses the stigma attached to being an ex-football player looking for work, which, in many cases, caused employers to not take him seriously as a worker.

05:42Copy video clip URL Atkins discusses his first job after his retirement, managing a prefab factory at GNN Components in Panama City, Florida, where the the factory would pre-assemble building material to be shipped out to building sites. He attributes the company’s inability to pay back their debts to other companies, and the pressure placed on his shoulders as a result, to be his main reason for leaving after three months.

07:41Copy video clip URL Atkins talks about his next job, following his time at GNN, which was at Southern Ship Builders in Slidell, Louisiana. He says that Earl Cunningham, who ran the shipyard, put him to work for a few months, which filled in the time between his previous job and the next, at Janke Concrete in New Orleans. Atkins explains that Mike Tillman got him a job as a salesman at the company, which lasted 8 months, after which he returned to the shipyard.

09:00Copy video clip URL After leaving the shipyard again, Atkins talks about his move back to Knoxville Tennessee, where he worked at the Orkin Exterminating Company in the management program. After another 8 months, Atkins says that he began work as a casket salesman for a major casket company out of Memphis, which, like many of his previous places of work, is no longer in existence. Having to work on commission and being in an area was tougher to make sales in, Atkins says he left the casket company after 3-4 months.

11:08Copy video clip URL Atkins states that his previous careers were interesting learning experiences for him, as he was able to hone his skills as a salesman and pick up skills like pest extermination as well.

11:21Copy video clip URL Atkins continues telling about his various jobs following his time as a casket salesman, from the 4-5 months he spend at a trucking outfit called Reliable Motors in Atlanta, Georgia, to his time as a salesman for Williams Optical for four years, and finally to his job at a coal company, which he describes as the best paying job he’d had. After 7 months at the coal company, Atkins says that the company went under, at which point he was jobless for another 6-7 months.

15:45Copy video clip URL Atkins speaks about the job he has presently at Pinnacle sales, which he has had for over 4 years. Reflecting on the various jobs that followed his football career, Atkins says that he has had experience in a great variety of multifarious places of work. “I’ve covered everything from caskets, to concrete, pipe, to beer, to eyeglasses, you name it . . . I don’t know what else is left; I’m still open for anything else.”

16:14Copy video clip URL Atkins recalls his short time as an actor in 2 Hollywood films. Though he’s never considered himself an actor the way he considers other football players like Merlin Olson or Dick Butkus to be actors, Atkins says that he enjoyed his time in the film business. He cites the films he’s done with Tom Gries, Number One starring Charlton Heston and Breakheart Pass starring Charles Bronson, as the only movies he’s acted in, though he states that he still receives residual checks on occasion. Gries’s death, he says, marked the end of his acting career.

17:25Copy video clip URL Atkins calls to mind the manifold careers he’s talked about, saying, “I’ve enjoyed most of them; you learn something from each job you have.” He then reiterates his regret of not taking the advice given to him about being prepared to look for work after playing football, and the fact that he is still wandering from job to job.

18:00Copy video clip URL Atkins begins telling stories about his time as a football player on the Chicago Bears, attributing the team’s success to their collective camaraderie, which was what made that period of his life so enjoyable. “We didn’t have too many clicks. Everybody was just one big happy family.”

19:15Copy video clip URL Atkins tells an anecdote about an instance at the time when he was playing for the Cleveland Browns and had lost around 20 pounds in a week due to an ulcer. Though he had hardly eaten the entire week and was feeling weak, he was still told to play on Sunday. “They had no sympathy for you, whatsoever.”



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