From head-to-toe, D.J. Atkins has a lot of daring, a sprinkling of agility and a ton of talent.
The Callaway High senior running back knows how to style and profile. Atkins also knows how to make defenders miss. Atkins is an athlete and a track star in football cleats. He plays hard and all out for every second and each game in which he plays for coach Pete Wiggins’ Cavaliers.
Heading into Friday night’s state quarterfinal playoff game against Brooks County, Atkins had rushed for 1,066 yards and nine touchdowns this year. Atkins is averaging eight yards every time he gets his hands on the ball.
He is a weapon like few others in Georgia Class AA high school football. And furthermore, Atkins loves every minute of it. He is a prep superstar, having run for well over 3,000 yards in the past two seasons.
“I can do it all – truck, stiffarm, and I have speed. I work on my craft. I understand the game, and I am getting better,” said Atkins.
And his confidence is not lacking. But neither are his work habits. He lifts in the weight room. He runs past defensive linemen. He makes linebackers look silly, and he can glide past any defensive back in the state.
“I can make people miss. I feel like a monster,” said Atkins.
He has been timed at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash. But Atkins is more than a speedy guy with All-State reflexes. Atkins can also grind.
He can run between the tackles with a burst of speed, coupled with an extra dose of savvy. Callaway High offensive coordinator Matt Napier has seen that type before, but the coach would rate Atkins on the short list of CHS all-time difference makers.
“We’ve had a lot of good running backs (here at Callaway), but D.J. is explosive. His speed is a big deal, and he is tough and physical,” said Napier.
The 5-foot-9, 165-pound waterbug of a tailback has led by example during the last two seasons for the Cavaliers. With Atkins in the lineup, Callaway High had worked up a sweat with a record of 24-2 (over the last two years) going into Friday’s third-round state playoff game at Brooks County.
“We’re having fun. We’re putting the team first, and we’re growing a lot,” said Napier.
Atkins is also upgrading his game.
“D.J. is working on details. He has got the athletic ability,” said Napier. Atkins also has college scholarship offers of every flavor. Atkins has been offered by college football recruiters from Western Carolina, Coastal Carolina and Georgia State. The Naval Academy is also in the conversation. The Midshipmen are close to offering Atkins a college scholarship, too.
But as of now, Atkins is verbally committed to the Western Carolina Catamounts from Cullowhee, N.C. and the Southern Conference.
Atkins has taken a liking to Western Carolina, for sure.
“I like the atmosphere (in Cullowhee). I like the mountains, and I like the coaches,” said Atkins.
But the flashy running back from Callaway High isn’t ruling out any present college football offers or future ones.
“I’m still getting some texts (from college coaches),” said Atkins.