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Notre Dame's George Atkinson III is turning pro early

AP Photo/Joe Raymond
Notre Dame running back George Atkinson III intends to enter the 2014 NFL Draft.

Notre Dame junior tailback George Atkinson III, who rushed for 943 yards in his Irish career, has declared his intent to enter the 2014 NFL Draft.

His father, George Atkinson Jr., was a star cornerback for the Oakland Raiders in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

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Atkinson (6-foot-1, 220 pounds) ran for 555 yards and three touchdowns this season, when he was the Irish's second-leading rusher. He was suspended for their Pinstripe Bowl victory over Rutgers; Atkinson said the suspension was for tweeting during a team dinner.

Atkinson opened the season as the starter, but eventually fell to third on the depth chart behind Cam McDaniel and true freshman Tarean Folston.

"If you have an opportunity, why not try to seize it?" George Atkinson Jr. told bluegoldillustrated.com. "It was nothing other than a conscious decision based on opportunity. He feels he's ready for it."

Atkinson Jr. told bluegoldillustrated.com he had talked with league personnel people. George III said he received a late-round grade when he asked for feedback from the NFL Draft Advisory Board.

Atkinson has excellent speed, but he frequently was criticized for running too upright and he never was that effective running between the tackles. In addition, he carried the ball more than nine times in a game just three times in his career. He is a good kick returner, though, and his special-teams potential could make him a third-day selection.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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