Third-year defensive tackle Geno Atkins has picked up where he left off last season when his 7.5 sacks tied for the NFL lead among interior linemen. Atkins accounted for two of the Bengals’ six sacks against the Jaguars on Sunday, raising his season total to five and career total to 15.5 through 36 games.
This weekend, the Bengals host the Dolphins. Atkins hails from South Florida – he was a standout at football powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Ft. Lauderdale – and has family ties to the Miami organization. His father, Gene, was a safety with the Dolphins in the mid-1990s.
Q: What memories do you have of the years that your father played with the Dolphins?
ATKINS: I have memories of him taking me around in training camp, being around all the players in the locker room, seeing Dan Marino and all that stuff. Just hanging out and playing with all the kids at the Dolphins facility. It was unbelievable being up there. It kind of felt like a playground because they let us run around and play in the players’ shoes and be in the locker room.
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Q: You’ve helped raise awareness about sickle cell trait as someone who has it. How does having the trait affect you on the football field, if at all?
ATKINS: I manage it by staying hydrated and getting enough rest. … In Denver, with the high altitude, it will affect my breathing a little bit and make me more fatigued going out there. But it doesn’t really bother me.
Q: Who is the toughest opponent you’ve gone up against?
ATKINS: The toughest? I want to say the whole AFC North. Baltimore’s got a good line. The Steelers and Cleveland.
Q: Why has St. Thomas Aquinas produced so many NFL players over the years? There were nine on opening weekend rosters this year, more than any other high school in the country.
ATKINS: The secret, I want to say, is that when Coach (George) Smith was the head coach the whole coaching staff preached good fundamentals and technique to us. He just built a culture of tradition and honor. When we played the Redskins, I ran into Leonard Hankerson and we talked a little bit. That just shows the type of talent that St. Thomas can produce.
Q: Do you set a goal before each season of how many sacks you’d like to get?
ATKINS: I never really put a number on it. I just go out there and play. If I get ’em, I get ’em. If I don’t, I don’t.
Source: Community Press & Recorder