ALBANY — An Albany State University running back was shot and killed after he broke into a house, police said.

Antonio Atkins, 21, of Jesup and an unknown man are suspected of breaking into the house early Friday, Albany police spokesman Lt. Kenn Singleton said in a statement.

Atkins’ body has been sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab in Moultrie for an autopsy. He would have entered his senior year at Albany State this fall.

Johnathan Young, a barber at the Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, said he shot one man with a shotgun after two men entered the home’s front door by force, according to a police report.

The home’s other occupant, Michael R. Thomas, told police the men came into the house and tried to rob them, the report said.

Former Albany State running back Antwan Andrews said he received a phone call at 8:30 a.m. Friday about Atkins’ death from scout team quarterback Nathaniel Cooper.

Andrews, who is in Los Angeles in hopes of getting picked in this weekend’s NFL draft, said he called Atkins mobile phone afterward, hoping it wasn’t true.

“I was shocked to the heart,” Andrews said. “He was a great teammate to me. It never went through my mind that something would happen like what happened (Friday morning). Right before I left Albany after Christmas, I went to his house, and the last thing I told him was, ’Make sure its going to be your season.”’

Mike White, Albany State University’s head football coach, said Atkins was a good football player that he will miss.

“He had great leadership on the field, and we expected great things from him in 2006. It’s just a shock when you hear it. There is no preparation for that,” White said.

Atkins made the team at Albany State at a spring tryout and was a walk-on his freshman year. As a walk-on, he rushed for 1,138 yards and 14 touchdowns and 139 yards receiving. He was awarded a scholarship after his freshman season.

In 2004, he rushed for 701 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 17 passes for 232 yards.

Atkins was a first-team All-SIAC preseason selection at running back in 2005 and rushed for 747 yards and six touchdowns and caught 25 passes for 360 yards and four touchdowns.

In the Fountain City Classic against Fort Valley State, Atkins was named the Rams’ most valuable player after rushing for 123 yards and two touchdowns and catching three passes for a total of 68 yards.

In his final collegiate game, against Central Arkansas in the NCAA Division II playoffs, he rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown and totaled 100 yards receiving and scored another touchdown.

He finished last season with 747 yards and six touchdowns and led the Rams with 360 yards receiving and four touchdowns.

Atkins is the second Albany State football player to die in three years. Walk-on lineman Jackie Blanding, 26, died on the first day of practice in 2003. He collapsed less than 15 minutes into sprint drills. An examiner said Blanding had an enlarged heart.

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