As a budding linebacker in the Southeastern Conference, there may be no better label to be given by your superiors than a “rolling ball of butcher knives.”
That name-tag falls squarely on the shoulder pad of Auburn junior linebacker Montavious Atkinson. Atkinson flourished as a high-energy contributor for the Tiger defense, and thus the label was born, from the mind of defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
“It’s always been a part of my game,” Atkinson said. “But I just had to come here and learn the fundamentals. I’ve always been a ‘fly around’ type guy.”
Atkinson rounds out the second-team depth of Travis Williams’ versatile linebacking corps. Deshaun Davis and Tre’ Williams headline the group, while newcomers Chandler Wooten, TD Moultry and K.J. Britt join juniors Darrell Williams and Atkinson in the rotation roles.
The return of Deshaun Davis and Tre’ Williams, both anchors of the stingy 2016 Auburn defense, serves as a tremendous bright spot for the 2017 Tigers. Atkinson, however, claims that coach Travis Williams is not the type to simply settle for a repeat of last year’s success.
“Coach T-Will is critiquing us every day,” Atkinson said. “We just try to go in the next day and get better. I’m a high energy guy myself, I like to run around, hit and be loud. Being able to be coached by somebody like that is really good.”
As head coach Gus Malzahn has preached all offseason, the depth is there for the Auburn Tigers in a plethora of areas, linebackers being no exception. Atkinson finds himself competing behind a multitude of tenured defenders. That experience flashed in the Tigers’ most recent scrimmage.
“I think [the defense] did really good,” Atkinson said. “Everybody was flying around, everybody was doing their job. There’s still a couple of things we need to work on, but that’s what we have practice for. Every day we try to get better.
“Every day we’re flying around. Even if [Travis Williams] doesn’t tell us to, we fly around and then we fix the mistakes.”
With the increasing amount of “flying” phrases being tossed about by Atkinson; the junior was asked if he had wings.
“Yep,” Atkinson laughed. “Got ‘em.”
The linebackers' off the field energy has been well-documented as of late, as Travis Williams has kept the group tight-knit with non-football activities, including a trip to a trampoline park.
“I would say this is the closest bond I’ve ever had with the team,” Atkinson said. “Everybody is there for one another. We stick our necks out for each other. It brings us closer, it lets us know that we can count on one another.”
In a contrast to play in the SEC, Atkinson noted that there were no rules at the park. The junior claimed that he managed not to knock over any kids. The Auburn defense will have to wait until September 2 for that.