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Doug Middleton: The Bar Setter

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The Appalachian Online

Senior defensive back Doug Middleton recently gained some notice on a national level. After being named to the Sun Belt preseason All-Conference team, Middleton was also placed on the watch list for two of college football’s most respected awards in August.

Middleton was nominated for the 30th Annual Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the nation’s top defensive back. He was also nominated for the Wuerffel Trophy, which is known as “College football’s premier award for community service.”

Middleton believes that these awards set a standard for himself.

“It just sets the bar for me,” Middleton said. “It’s just encouragement that I gotta keep working harder. It’s motivation to continue to prove to myself and prove to everybody else.”

Middleton’s play on the field last year was a key to getting the Thorpe Award nomination and preseason all-conference honors. He was the only Sun Belt player to tally four interceptions, 10 pass deflections, and over 70 tackles, making him one of the most versatile safeties in the conference.

Middleton attributes his success to his preparation.

“I prepare equally for everything that I do,” Middleton said. “Equally for special teams. Equally for free safety. Equally for strong safety. Equally for corner. I started to figure out not only what I was supposed to do, but everybody else on the field. Just knowing that has helped me be so versatile.”

Middleton has also been a leader for the team.

“On the field, he’s a cerebral guy, so he makes a lot of calls for our defense in the back end,” head coach Scott Satterfield said. “All those things are what you want as a leader of your defense, but it just so happens that he’s great off the field as well. You put both of those things together, and he’s been an awesome leader for our team.”

His teammates agreed.

“He’s just like that perfect leader,” senior defensive lineman Ronald Blair said. “He’s gonna make a play when you need it, and he’s gonna say something when you need him to say it.”

Middleton admitted that the Jim Thorpe Award meant more to him than making all-conference.

“Knowing that each team in the nation has more than 10 DBs, to be in that 42 is a great accomplishment,” Middleton said. “At the same time you just gotta keep working, and you can’t be satisfied.”

Cornerbacks’ coach Bryan Brown believes with team success, Middleton could have higher chances of winning the award.

“If we’re doing a great job of playing defense and winning games, a lot of people will start looking at him a whole lot more,” Brown said.

While his on-the-field playmaking and leadership have been undeniable, it’s what Middleton does off the field that has the biggest impact.

Middleton’s community service got started when he worked through Western Youth Network being a mentor to a child going through tough times. He saw himself as being motivation for the child. Then, in the first game of his sophomore season, Middleton went down with a season-ending ankle injury.

After he was sidelined, Middleton started to focus on more off-the-field activities.

Over the past two summers, he has had internships with the county attorney’s office working with the county manager. He has also worked with the chancellors and vice chancellors lobbying for the university.

“That was one of my biggest accomplishments, just being able to travel with the board of trustees and a lot of people that make this university work,” Middleton said.

Aside from that, Middleton traveled with Athletic Director Doug Gillan to speak to a Rotary Club in Hickory at one point. He also reads to children at a nearby elementary school on Dr. Seuss Day each year.

“Being able to do all those things is big,” Middleton said. “For me, it’s a lot bigger than the on-the-field stuff at times.”

Coaches have picked up on his willingness to help and have urged him to continue.

“There’s some guys that kind of shy away from some of that, but he’s a guy that’s not scared,” Satterfield said. “We love putting him out there because he’s a great ambassador for our program.”

Middleton’s actions have started to rub off on teammates as well.

“Any time coach asks us to do anything, Doug’s always the first guy there,” junior linebacker John Law said. “He’s a guy that I actually try to model myself after.”

Looking ahead to the future, Middleton plans to continue his success both on and off the field.

“Hopefully it’s a long time down the road but once that day does come, I want to get into lobbying for a little bit, and then I want to be a city manager,” Middleton said. “Right now I’m working on my masters. That’s my goal after football. But football is number one.”

Heading into the upcoming season, the team is looking to Middleton to bring the same intensity on the field that he has each of his past seasons, and they’re confident he will.

“He’ll do an outstanding job,” Brown said. “And he deserves any and every award that he ever gets.”

Story by: Colin Tate, Sports Reporter 

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