Notre Dame running back Atkinson declares for NFL Draft

George Atkinson will not return to Notre Dame for his senior season
George Atkinson will not return to Notre Dame for his senior season. (USATSI)

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This comes as a bit of a surprise, but Notre Dame running back George Atkinson III has declared for the NFL Draft and will not be returning to South Bend next season.

“I guess it’s like anything else when you feel you’re ready for something and the time is proper for you,” Atkinson’s father, George Jr, told Blue Gold Illustrated. "If you have an opportunity why not try to seize it?

"It was nothing other than a conscious decision based on opportunity. He feels he's ready for it."

It should be noted that Atkinson was suspended for Notre Dame's Pinstripe Bowl appearance against Rutgers, and tweeted that he had been suspended "for texting friends and family during team meal, as I did all season." Atkinson quickly deleted the tweet. 

Even before the suspension, though, Atkinson saw his workload at Notre Dame decrease. He finished 2013 second on the team with 555 yards rushing and three touchdowns, but after receiving 32 carries in consecutive games against Oklahoma and Arizona State, Atkinson only carried the ball 37 times in Notre Dame's final six games of the regular season. The carries Atkinson had been getting started going to freshman back Tarean Folston instead.

So you have to think Atkinson's slip down the depth chart and suspension have something to do with his unexpected decision to go pro.

Atkinson says he received a late-round grade in his draft evaluation and spoke with NFL personnel before making his decision.

CBS Sports Writer

Tom Fornelli has been a college football writer at CBS Sports since 2010. During his time at CBS, Tom has proven time and again that he hates your favorite team and thinks your rival is a paragon of football... Full Bio

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