Josh Atkinson says he's always been overlooked. "Through my life I've always been the underdog. People labeled me too slow, too skinny, people always counting me out, forgetting about me," he said.
And he wasn't even the best athlete in the family. That title belonged to his sister. "She always beat up on me a little bit. I'd go tell my dad and he'd be like, ‘That's fine. She has to beat up on you; you got to get tough.’"
He soon learned toughness. His uncle, former Central Brave and New York Knick, John Starks taught him the same toughness he displayed in the NBA. "He's always telling me something encouraging, keep me working hard and stuff like that,” added Atkinson. “And my Uncle Monty, his brother, he calls me pretty much every day, making sure I'm working out, I'm doing the little things to get my body right."
Once he got to college, he relied on that toughness taught to him by his uncles after a broken ankle sidelined him freshman year. "I wouldn't necessarily say I was depressed, but it was definitely tough. Going through that, it took a lot of prayer," Atkinson explained.
So, he looked for a change. He gave his original jersey number 2 to teammate Keevan Lucas. Atkinson then took number 88, because the number 8 in the Bible signifies a new beginning and he was a big fan of Cowboys Alvin Harper and Michael Irvin.
From that point, he's been quite productive for Tulsa. This year, he's in the top 100 in the nation in receptions per game and receiving yards per game, despite not playing in the opener against FAU.
But, he's still overshadowed. "Everybody is so focused on Keevan and Keyarris... I just got to take every opportunity and run with it," he explained.