Fresh off a head-turning performance at Ohio State camp Wednesday, Tyler Atkinson was wearing a custom-made T-shirt as he addressed a small crowd of reporters.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound defensive end already has his own brand even though he has only just finished eighth grade.
“This is my logo, I’m starting it up for four years,” Atkinson said, referencing his T-shirt with the phrase “ATK-N-UP" printed, a play on his last name. “I call it acting up, because I go everywhere with football and act up and show out. So this will be the new fit.”
Atkinson certainly showed out on Wednesday.
Working out with a defensive line group that included four-star talents Jalen Thompson, Elias Rudolph, Kendrick Gilbert and Omar White and three-star OSU commit Will Smith Jr., Atkinson arguably was the smoothest-looking player in that group.
His speed off the edge was evident. He won every one-on-one matchup thrown at him. After two-and-a-half hours of workouts, it was easy to see why Jim Knowles and Ryan Day pulled the trigger and bestowed a rare offer to an eighth-grade prospect on May 12.
“It felt amazing,” Atkinson said of getting offered by OSU. “It was very exciting, because I never knew they would offer an eighth-grader. And so for me to be one of the eighth-graders they offered was a very good experience.”
Atkinson was the first player offered by the Buckeyes in the 2026 cycle. They’re not alone in believing in Atkinson’s talent at a young age. Before playing a single down of high school football, Atkinson has already picked up 20 Division I offers. But he’s not slowing down to pat himself on the back for his early success.
“I don't let that stuff get to my head,” Atkinson said of getting the 20 offers. “It's a true blessing. My family has been there with me every step. So all this is his blessing. And I'll keep working and keep my grind on.”
Atkinson’s football career began when he was four years old. He’s never lost interest since. He credits his fast rise on the recruiting scene to good genes and a hard work ethic.
“It came from my background,” Atkinson said. “All my family played, my grandpa, my uncle, they all played football and all were dominant. So when I was young, I was doing push-ups, I was doing push-ups every day. So it built up to now, and I’m just going to keep working.”
Wednesday was Atkinson’s first-ever visit to Columbus and he wanted to take in everything he could. After camp, he and his family toured the campus and the city. But one of his favorite parts of the trip was learning techniques from legendary Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson.
“I learned that everything has to come in a process and to be patient, don't rush moves or you will lose,” Atkinson said. “He taught me to like keep my hands moving. He just taught me different stuff that I need to work on.”
Edge prospect Tyler Atkinson (@Tyler16Atkinson) is about to be a freshman in high school, yet already holds an Ohio State offer. Looks pretty smooth going through drills with Larry Johnson. pic.twitter.com/RQxOEJYaGw— Garrick Hodge (@Garrick_Hodge) June 1, 2022
Atkinson said Ohio State sees him as an outside linebacker and an edge pass rusher who could play various positions on defense. That’s just fine with Atkinson, who said he loves the opportunity to line up everywhere and play multiple positions.
While he resides in Georgia, the Buckeyes have been on Atkinson’s radar for a few years because Ohio State is the alma mater of his favorite player.
“I had a lot of interest because my favorite player is Chase Young, he's like a guy I really look up to,” Atkinson said. “He does everything, he can drop back in coverage and he can cover. I mean, he can rush the passer from everywhere. So me getting offered at the school that Chase Young played for, that's very good.”
Atkinson said he watches highlights of Young almost every day, both for fun and to pick up techniques he uses in the NFL. His admiration for the Ohio State legend started when Young emerged as an elite defensive talent in Columbus. Atkinson admires Young’s physical and mental progression as a player over the years.
“For him to set the tone at Ohio State, that’s very good,” Atkinson said. “To see the passion he has and how he rushes the passer and all that, that’s what I like to see.”
Though it may not seem like it from his offer sheet, Atkinson is in the infancy stages of his recruitment. He’s a long way away from releasing any sort of top schools list, let alone making a decision. But Ohio State entered his recruitment early and could be in for a lengthy recruiting process in hopes of landing a talent who almost assuredly projects as a five-star player, perhaps a top-five player in the nation. The respect is mutual for Ohio State on Atkinson’s end.
“This is what (school) every young guy wishes he can play for,” Atkinson said of Ohio State. “So me for being in this position and have an offer from there so I can come for free, I’m very blessed and I'm very thankful for that.”