Doug Middleton: Life's journey is unlikely to be a straight line – Watauga Democrat

Former Appalachian State football player Doug Middleton spoke to members and guests at Cornerstone Summit Church on Feb. 13, sharing reflections on his life journey and the role God plays in his life.
Doug Middleton, right, shares a moment with former App State football head coach, Jerry Moore, at Cornerstone Summit Church on Feb. 13.
Members of the App State ‘family’ gathered for a photo op before former App State football player Doug Middleton delivered the keynote address Feb. 13 at Cornerstone Summit Church. From left, T.S. Noble, Sarah Strickland (interim assistant athletics director), Sarah Rumely Noble (head volleyball coach), Margaret Moore, Jerry Moore (former head football coach), Doug Middleton, Caroline Rogers Middleton, Athletic Director Doug Gillin and Pastor Reggie Hunt (Student Athlete Leadership Coordinator).

Former Appalachian State football player Doug Middleton spoke to members and guests at Cornerstone Summit Church on Feb. 13, sharing reflections on his life journey and the role God plays in his life.
BOONE — Riveting. Inspired. Inspiring. Those are the best words to describe former Appalachian State football defensive back and current NFL free agent Doug Middleton’s message on Feb. 13 at Cornerstone Summit Church.
Middleton shared a depiction of his life journey that has been anything but a straight line and certainly not what anyone would call easy. Outsiders might just see his all-Sun Belt Conference accolades and an unlikely 6-year stint in the NFL thinking otherwise.
Starting to play football when he was six years old, it wasn’t long before he began to harbor dreams of “playing at the next level,” whatever level he was currently on. As a junior in high school, his ambition was to play at the highest collegiate level possible, preferably for South Carolina in the Southeastern Conference. Nothing else would do, he told the estimated crowd of 100 people crowded into the church and the untold many more streaming the service live from several states and even other countries, reported Pastor Reggie Hunt.
A Big Disappointment
Going through the recruiting process, Middleton’s parents taxied him from college camp to college camp, letting coaches get a look-see at his talents and desire. When he finally went to a camp in South Carolina, he said, part of the way through the activities one of the assistant coaches pulled him aside to say that the university would not offer him a scholarship.
Middleton said he was crushed by the revelation. After the tears of disappointment passed, though, he began to explore other opportunities. He conducted multiple, extensive Google searches, looking for the right combination of a good football program and good academics.
At some point in his search, he came across Appalachian State. He knew nothing about the school except that it was in the mountains, had won a couple of national championships at the lower Division I level (FCS), and had defeated Michigan in 2007.
“I asked my father to send one of my highlight videos to App State and he said he would. After I confirmed that he had, I followed up with an email to the coaching staff. After a week or so, assistant coach Scott Sloan called me to say that they really liked what they saw on the video and that they wanted to make me an offer — but there were four other guys ahead of me,” Middleton said. “They had already offered those four guys and for me to get a scholarship all four of them would have to turn down their offers.”
The National Signing Day was approaching and a decision had to be made soon. Middleton said that Wofford and Old Dominion, two other FCS schools, had already extended offers. He said he wanted to go to App State, so he didn’t sign with the other schools despite the odds of all four earlier recruits rejecting the App State scholarship offers.
A week went by and Sloan called to say that one of the four other players had said no, but there was barely two weeks left before National Signing Day. Middleton continued to say he wanted to go to App State.
Another week went by and one more of the other recruits said “no.” Two down, two to go, but only a week remained before signing day. His high school coaches told him he was crazy, that he would not get an App State offer and should sign with one of the schools that had already extended an invitation to join their programs.
Middleton continued to say that he wanted to go to Appalachian. The week before signing day, Sloan called to say that a third recruit had said decided to go somewhere else. Finally, two days before signing day, Sloan called to say the fourth recruit had said “no” and offered the scholarship to Middleton.
“My parents were not in favor of me accepting the offer to App State,” said Middleton. “They questioned whether the Mountaineer coaches really wanted him. But when Jerry Moore walked into the room on his official visit, I knew this was the man I wanted to play for. Finally, it was my grandmother offering her blessing for me to go to App State that (sealed the deal).”
Facing adversity, though, seemed to be a constant once Middleton arrived in Boone. After a 97-yard return for a touchdown as a freshman, Moore pulled him aside and said, “Son, if you keep making plays like that you can play at the next level.”
Moore’s comments stoked his NFL dreams. Then, something beyond his control happened.
“The school made the decision to join the Sun Belt and compete at the FBS level,” recalled Middleton. “We had to go through two transition years without competing for a conference championship or becoming bowl eligible. There was nothing to play for, except just to play.”
For a young man with NFL aspirations, the reduced visibility to scouts that could be had in championship games or bowl games was problematic.
After a brilliant junior season with all-Sun Belt first team honors, including many tackles, pass breakups and a couple of interceptions, Middleton said that a couple of agents started contacting him. One projected that if he kept up the performance, he would go in the NFL Draft’s second round after his senior year.
“Then my senior season, I didn’t have a single tackle in the first game against Howard. That agent texted me and said, ‘Keep your head up and stay with it.’ The second game, against Clemson, I had one tackle. The agent didn’t even return my texts after that,” said Middleton.
In the next three games, Middleton said he only had one more tackle.
“Two tackles in five games is not going to get you drafted in the second round,” said Middleton.
Louisiana-Monroe was the next opponent and Middleton said he really hoped to finally make an impact. On ULM’s opening offensive series he had a big hit, the start of a good impression. Then, on Louisiana-Monroe’s last offensive series of the first half, Middleton said he had another ‘monster’ hit.
“Then I looked up and heard the referee say my number, 21. He said, ‘Number 21 is ejected for targeting,’” Middleton said, suggesting that the call had all but eliminated any hopes that remained for getting drafted. You can’t be seen competing if you are not on the field.
Doug Middleton, right, shares a moment with former App State football head coach, Jerry Moore, at Cornerstone Summit Church on Feb. 13.
And he didn’t get drafted. Instead, the New York Jets signed him as an undrafted free agent. He played for the Jets for a couple of years, being signed, let go, shuffled to the practice squad and back to the active roster for mostly short term stints when a higher profile starter was injured. As a rookie, he scored his first and only NFL touchdown with the Jets in week 17, against the Buffalo Bills, playing special teams and recovering a fumbled kickoff in an opponent’s end zone.
After being released by the Jets on Sept. 1, 2019, it wasn’t long before the Miami Dolphins called. He was signed, released 3 weeks later, signed to the practice squad 2 weeks after that, then released less than 2 weeks later.
Only a couple of weeks went by before the Jacksonville Jaguars signed him to their practice squad. He was promoted to the active roster for what was left of the 2019 season, then released the following, COVID-19 impacted season, in training camp.
Within a couple of weeks he had a tryout with the Indianapolis Colts before the Tennessee Titans signed him — only to release him three days later.
The Jaguars didn’t waste much time before signing him again, then releasing him to be resigned to their practice squad. After some time on the COVID-19 list, he was activated to the practice squad, then was shuffled back and forth to the active roster, back to the practice squad, released, resigned, etc.
In 2021, Middleton went through preseason training camp after being signed by the Carolina Panthers, but cut before the regular season started. A little more than a month into the season, he was signed to the Panthers’ practice squad, but released the next day. The San Francisco 49ers signed him to their practice squad in early December 2021, then released him in late January of this year.
For Middleton, the NFL has been a dizzying experience.
“What a lot of people don’t realize,” he told the Watauga Democrat after the worship service, “is that professional football is a business. There are any number of reasons why teams make the personnel decisions that they do. They don’t have a lot invested in an undrafted free agent compared to what they have invested in a draft pick, so the UDFA is easier to let go.”
Members of the App State ‘family’ gathered for a photo op before former App State football player Doug Middleton delivered the keynote address Feb. 13 at Cornerstone Summit Church. From left, T.S. Noble, Sarah Strickland (interim assistant athletics director), Sarah Rumely Noble (head volleyball coach), Margaret Moore, Jerry Moore (former head football coach), Doug Middleton, Caroline Rogers Middleton, Athletic Director Doug Gillin and Pastor Reggie Hunt (Student Athlete Leadership Coordinator).
Cornerstone Summit Church Pastor Reggie Hunt explained when he was introducing Middleton to the crowd that the vast majority of undrafted free agents don’t make it past their first training camp. Many of the NFL players’ careers are barely three years.
“And Doug has made it six years in the league,” said Hunt.
In opening his remarks shared with the crowd, Middleton admitted that most people like to know everything about the journey ahead, where every turn is, every stop sign.
But that is not how God works, he said. “Sometimes he takes you in a whole different direction.”
A man with a deep conviction in his belief in God and Jesus Christ, Middleton said that rather than worry about all the twists and turns of the journey, he believes it is better to put yourself in God’s hands.
“There is no way that I know everything, every opportunity in my life ahead,” said Middleton, “so my choice is to put my faith in God. He’s the one that (knows)… It may seem at times that things are not going to get better, but they will.”
Less than a year ago, Middleton married Caroline Rogers, a former App State softball player he met his freshman year and they have been a part of each other’s lives ever since.
Pastor Hunt reported to the congregation and guests that Middleton received a 2017 award from the NFL Players Association for his work outside of football. He currently has a program working with youth, often reached through their coaches. In addition, he has established a non-profit organization, Dream the Impossible, Inc., focused on mental health.
During his talk to the church members, Middleton said that he had attended too many funerals, recently, of suicide victims. People suffering from mental health, including depression, have to know that there is help, that somebody cares, and they are not alone, he said.
In his talk with the Watauga Democrat after the service, Middleton emphasized that the education component of being a student-athlete is critical.
“Only one percent of college football players nationally make it to the NFL,” said Middleton, who said he not only has his bachelor’s degree, but also a Master’s degree. “The NCAA’s message that 99 percent of college athletes go pro in something other than sports is so true. The access to education and other job opportunities is the most important thing about being a student athlete.”
As the conversation drifted toward occupations that don’t require a college degree, Middleton said, “Young people need exposure. They need to know that the marketplace needs electricians, plumbers, carpenters and builders. And they need to know what those people do. If they know, they might find an interest that lasts them a lifetime.”
{{description}}
Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items.
Dear reader,
Thanks to modern technologies, you and more people are reading the Watauga Democrat than ever before. Freedom of the press is essential to preserving democracy: But a free press isn’t free. It takes significant resources for Mountain Times Publications’ 10 full-time journalists to provide credible, fact-based and ethical journalism in the High Country. So, we are asking you to join our advertisers and print subscribers in supporting local journalism with your dollar. The Watauga Democrat does not have a paywall, but your financial support will help sustain these services that you use to inform your decisions and engage with your community.
Your comment has been submitted.

Reported
There was a problem reporting this.
Log In
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.
We’re always interested in hearing about news in our community. Let us know what’s going on!
Trusted local news has never been more important, but providing the information you need, information that can change sometimes minute-by-minute, requires a partnership with you, our readers. Please consider making a contribution today to support this vital resource that you and countless others depend on.
Sorry, an error occurred.

A weekday morning newsletter with a list of local news, sports and community headlines.
Sign up with

Thank you .
Your account has been registered, and you are now logged in.
Check your email for details.
Invalid password or account does not exist
Sign in with
Submitting this form below will send a message to your email with a link to change your password.
An email message containing instructions on how to reset your password has been sent to the e-mail address listed on your account.

Secure & Encrypted
Secure transaction. Cancel anytime.

Thank you.
Your purchase was successful, and you are now logged in.
A receipt was sent to your email.

source

Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones
Articles: 5026

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *