Police call death of former Florida player 'suspicious'

Updated: July 5, 2007, 5:39 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

PORT ORANGE, Fla. -- Police have labeled as "suspicious" the death of a former University of Florida cornerback whose body was discovered inside his car Thursday morning.

Avery Atkins, 20, was a notable player in Florida coach Urban Meyer's first recruiting class. Police are awaiting the results of an autopsy Thursday to determine the cause of death.

"Any death of a young, healthy man 20 years of age is going to be deemed suspicious," Port Orange Sgt. Wayne Dorman said. "This is a new and ongoing investigation.

"It doesn't appear anyone else is involved at this point," Dorman told the Orlando Sentinel.

A relative who lived with Atkins made the discovery and immediately called 911 for assistance, according to details of the police report. Responding officers performed CPR until paramedics arrived, but Atkins never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead at 9:24 a.m. at Halifax Medical Center.

According to the Sentinel, Dorman said there were no visible signs of trauma to Atkins' body. The car was parked in the garage of his home and the garage door was open, Dorman told the newspaper.

Dorman would not comment on what Atkins might have been doing before he was discovered. Atkins was arrested Monday in Ormond Beach and charged with possession of crack cocaine, the Sentinel and the Gainesville Sun reported. The Sentinel said Atkins had been arrested three times -- twice for drugs -- in the past three months.

Florida granted Atkins' request to be released from his scholarship in June 2006 after several encounters with the law. Atkins played in six games while starting in three for the Gators during the 2005 season.

After enrolling at Bethune-Cookman and appearing in three games that fall, he withrew and attempted to return to Florida but dropped out last winter.

"Our sympathy goes out to the family," Bethune-Cookman coach Alvin B. Wyatt Sr. said in a statement Thursday. "While I did not have the opportunity to work with Avery towards receiving a degree at Bethune-Cookman University, the short time we did have the chance to work with him was one of the most satisfying relationships that a player/coach can establish."

Information from ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad was used in this report.