Among the most physically gifted athletes to be named to our Elite101 Rankings is 2026 DE/OLB Tyler Atkinson.
Atkinson is among the most talented defensive players we've seen at his age level in quite some time. Atkinson is the highest ranked defensive player on our Elite101, and he was ranked #4 overall in the entire 2026 class. One could argue he's right there for the #1 spot.
"Being ranked so high was a great feeling. I feel like my hard work is starting to payoff but there is a lot more work to do," Atkinson told Youth1.com.
"I am glad to be ranked high though because it only pushes me to go harder because just like me, other dawgs want that spot and they gonna try to get it. Like I said before, that's what I love, to compete! I always want to be the best," he added.
The Lawrenceville, GA native is a physically gifted athlete that is building a reputation as 2026's premier edge rusher. Standing at 6'2" 187 lbs., Atkinson's combination of size and speed allows him to fly off the ball at the snap, wreaking havoc on the opposition's offense. He's relentless in pursuit of the ball and plays with a competitiveness that allows him to out-duel opposing linemen.
"I play DE and OLB. I am the Edge! I enjoy helping my team by holding down the edge and not letting anyone get outside of me. I really love to rush the QB. It is like an art to me. I enjoy covering the pass too. When I play FB, I play it like I am on defense. I love to play defense," Atkinson said.
"My favorite part of playing football is to compete. That's what makes me better."
Atkinson stars for the Duluth Wildcats Youth Football Team. The success of his team is something he's extremely proud of.
"Honestly all the rankings and selections are great, but I am most excited about being able to have helped lead my Duluth Wildcats team to a 4th straight undefeated league champion in the GFL, our 2nd straight B2C State Championship, and claim the spot to be ranked as the 5th 13U/8th Grade team in the nation by Battle Sports," Atkinson said.
Atkinson has compiled an impressive resume for an athlete of his age. Aside from being ranked #4 on Youth1's Elite101 Rankings, Atkinson is also ranked as the #1 defensive player and #3 overall by BigFaceSports, selected as one FBU's 5 finalist for FBU Middle School Player of the Year in the nation, and he was selected as Born to Compete's Prime11 for Class of 2026.
These accolades are a testament to the talent level Atkinson has. He's a worker that is always finding ways to improve his game.
"I got a lot of work to do and learn. I like to be around older players to learn from what they do good and work to do it better. I love to work and want to be the best so I am just trusting the process," Atkinson said.
When asked about his strengths, Atkinson was quick to note his dedication to his craft.
"My strengths are my work ethic, my heart, learning the game, and perfecting my technique. My speed off the edge is getting better and I am a good tackler. I do good at shedding blocks and using my hands on my QB pressure and playing the run. I work hard to keep my edge on lock," he said.
Atkinson is ready to take his game to the next level and make waves on the high school level. This spring he plans on training hard in preparation for what's to come.
"I can't wait for spring football for high school! I have been preparing for it for a long time by just working coach. Work, work and more work. I try to work different than everyone else. I plan on going to a lot of camps again," Atkinson said.
"Last summer as a 7th grader I went to camps with high school players only. I did UGA, Clemson, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Florida State and USF camps. As well as, Rusty Mansell, and Kenyatta Watson high school camps. This year I will be coming to camp bigger, stronger, and faster," he added.
Being named as a top 5 athlete on Youth1's Elite101 Rankings is an impressive accomplishment for any youth athlete. It speaks to the hard work put in by Tyler and the elite talent he has. He's put in the work and is thankful to his family for their love and support in his football journey.
If his youth career is any sign of things to come, 2026 DE/OLB Tyler Atkinson will surely be an elite talent at the high school level very soon.
"My dad says everything starts over in HS. We making sure I'm gonna be right too," Atkinson said.
"I am really locked in and ready to start my high school days. Big thank you to God, my dad, my mom and my sister."
To view the entire Elite101 Rankings, click here.
For more on Tyler Atkinson, check out his highlights below.
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