The Athletic‘s Pete Sampson tweeted the news late Monday night. No cause of death has yet been reported.
George’s death comes about one year after the running back’s twin brother Josh Atkinson died by suicide last December. Sons of Super Bowl champion George Atkinson II, the brothers both played for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish starting in 2011.
George played college football until 2013 before transitioning to the NFL, where he played professionally for the Oakland Raiders and the Cleveland Browns.
In an open letter written in October, George opened up about his struggles in grieving his twin brother. Titled “How I Turned My Losses Into Lessons” and published by The Unsealed, the letter recounts the loss of their mother, who died from complications from Crohn’s disease and also suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, and how the tragedy weighed heavily on Josh.
Former Notre Dame running back George Atkinson III has died. Atkinson III has been dealing with depression since the death of his twin brother Josh roughly one year ago. Both were part of Notre Dame’s 2011 recruiting class.— Pete Sampson (@PeteSampson_) December 3, 2019
I can confirm through a family member former #NotreDame RB George Atkinson III has passed away.— Matt Freeman (@mattfreemanISD) December 3, 2019
George said his brother felt guilty over their mom’s death. Following his brother’s death by suicide on Christmas 2018, George wrote that he was institutionalized for self-harm.
“That’s the moment I felt like I lost everything. That’s the moment I can’t describe,” he wrote of losing his brother. “I never want you to feel his pain or my pain.”
Grappling with that pain at the time and processing his family tragedies, George said he looked for the “why” in his life — what drove him to work hard and persevere every day. He said his 2-year-old daughter was his motivator.
“I knew I had to find a way to keep going and be a role model for her,” he wrote. “Without my daughter, I don’t know where I would be right now. She gave me that second wind of motivation.”
Writing that he met with a psychologist and learned to open up about his feelings, George said he knew “the holidays this year won’t be easy” but that he was “trying to take life one day at a time.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.