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Where Are They Now

Where Are They Now: Doug Middleton

Catch Up with the Jets Legend from Appalachian State


When Appalachian State cornerback Doug Middleton wasn't chosen during the 2016 NFL Draft, he was approached by Washington about signing as a free agent. Strike one. He was also approached by Jacksonville. Strike two. And by Tampa Bay. Strike three.

If only they would have known …

"The Jets were my favorite team growing up. I was a huge Darrelle Revis fan," Middleton said. "I had some opportunities and then my agent said, 'The Jets just called. I know they're your favorite team. What do you think?' And I said, 'I would love to go play for the Jets. Go play for a team that had a big defensive focus.' I've seen a lot of great players on that defense. So yeah, that was what inspired me to go play for the Jets."

It wasn't long after signing a contract with New York and reporting to the team's facility that Middleton was able to come face-to-face with Revis.

"Seeing him walk in the meeting room, he sat two rows down from me. It was like I couldn't believe I was sitting next to players I've watched for so long play at a high level," Middleton said.

"Just getting to be around him and learn the way he works and just how easy it was for him because he's so gifted. He had been playing for so long and was just so smart and could really understand the game. It was cool.

"And Marcus Gilchrist was a great fit. Calvin Pryor. I feel that entire team was a lot of great fits. They were just not only good football players, but really good guys. They were able to show me the ropes, get me adjusted."

Placed on the practice squad a week before the season opener against Cincinnati at MetLife Stadium, the rookie was able to adjust to life in the NFL with much less pressure.

"I was very professional about my job every single day that I went out there, and just wanted to prove myself every rep and every opportunity I got. The practice squad was a great way for me to develop," Middleton said. "It gave me a chance to really hone in and treat every practice like a game. So I'm thankful for my time on the practice squad for helping me develop and use it to jumpstart my career."

As the weeks and games passed, Middleton followed the lead of Revis and the other veterans and did all he could to prove himself. Those efforts didn't go unnoticed. And after meeting with general manager Mike Maccagnan, head coach Todd Bowles, and defensive backs coach Joe Danna, Middleton was promoted to the active roster before the Week 14 game in San Francisco.

"I had been hoping to be activated for that game because Ronald Blair, my college roommate, got drafted by the 49ers that same year," Middleton said. "And so I had that one circled and was like, 'Man, if I could just get promoted by that game I would be extremely happy and blessed.'"

He was both. And he would be on the Levi's Stadium field sooner and longer than expected.

"On one of the first series, Marcus Gilchrist went down. He tore his patellar tendon," Middleton said. "I was forced to go in and play defense in the second quarter. It was really cool playing against (San Francisco's quarterback) Colin Kaepernick, and going out there and making plays. I made a fourth-down stop (with 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter) and we ended up winning the game in overtime when Bilal Powell scored a (19-yard) touchdown. That game was just so much fun."

Middleton may have found the season finale against Buffalo three weeks later to be even more fun when on an ensuing kickoff following a Nick Folk field goal late in the fourth quarter, the Bills mistakenly allowed the ball to bounce into the end zone. And after sprinting down the field, he had the wherewithal to jump on it for a touchdown.

"I think that that play showed who I am as a person and player and my effort and just willingness to work harder than everybody," Middleton said. "I felt like I had good potential and was blessed with some good talent, but the story of my career had been perseverance and just giving my all every opportunity that I had. The rule was changed after that play, so I guess I'll be the last person that has a (defensive) touchdown off the kickoff."

Tearing his right pectoral muscle the following preseason, Middleton spent 2017 on Injured Reserve. And after starting in four of the first seven games in 2018, he tore his left pec and found himself on I.R. again.

One of his fondest memories from the three years he spent with the Jets is when he was named as the 2017 Week 15 NFLPA Community MVP. Another is "starting my first game on Monday Night Football against the Detroit Lions (in the 2018 season-opener)," Middleton said. "We started off a little rocky. Sam Darnold threw a pick-six the first play and we come back and ended up blowing them out (48-17). I remember how much fun that game was. It just felt like I was a young high school kid playing football all over again. Pop Warner days."

In 2022, Middleton looked back to his college days and became the Special Assistant to the Athletic Department at App State.

"I do various things. I work in the NIL department and help student-athletes develop brands. I help them leverage their platforms and connect with NIL opportunities," Middleton said. "I teach yoga to the student-athletes and we also do some mental health programming together.  And then I also help fundraise. I do a lot with local football alumni and make sure they're supported with the university.

"But what I enjoy most is being able to impact young people when I see they're going through similar things that I went through. I think that's the coolest thing, knowing that you have a solution based on your own experiences, and just being able to communicate that to them and then seeing them make it out of their situations and turn it into a positive. Just have success on and off the field."

Middleton and his wife, Caroline, a senior occupational therapist at Encompass Health, make their home in Waxhaw, NC, and are expecting their first child in March. They founded Dream Yoga and Wellness in Indian Land, SC, in 2022.

"I had some injuries throughout my career and it just kept bringing me to yoga, wanting to get more flexible and just wanting to create more space with my mind and my body and bringing that together in a line," Middleton said. "That made me want to open it. I felt coming out of COVID, there were a lot of people who had suffered mentally and physically. I wanted to be able to provide a place of community and healing for people."

Seven years ago, Middleton also founded the Dream the Impossible Foundation, a nonprofit mental health awareness organization formed to reverse deaths by suicide, especially in the Black communities, after losing his best friend to suicide.

"For me, going to the NFL was a dream that a lot of people thought was impossible," Middleton said. "And so what we do is, help student-athletes understand that whatever they dream up, whatever they possibly want to achieve, is possible. And we provide mental health support to the student-athletes along their journeys. We also open their perspective and help them understand that there's so many other things that you could be successful at besides playing sports."