BOONE, N.C. – App Nation may know Doug Middleton best as a defensive back that starred on the Appalachian State football team from 2011-2015, but his success has extended beyond Kidd Brewer Stadium.
A current NFL player for the New York Jets, Middleton graduated this past weekend with a Master’s in Public Administration with a concentration in Town, City & County Management. It’s his second degree from App State.
A native of Winston-Salem, Middleton started his journey as a Mountaineer back in 2011. His five-year college career led him to graduating in May 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science concentrating in Pre-Professional Legal Studies with a minor in General Business.
During his redshirt senior year, Middleton had already started the graduate program.
“I was admitted into the MPA accelerated program my redshirt junior year,” Middleton said. “Dr. Carrie Bush told me about the program, and she introduced me to the department head, Dr. Mark Bradbury. After taking her state and local government class during my sophomore year, I knew my calling was to be in state and local government.”
After a rookie season with the New York Jets in which he scored a special teams touchdown, Middleton decided to finish what he’d started and work toward obtaining his master’s degree.
While balancing his 42 hours of coursework and rigorous NFL training schedule, Middleton completed an internship with the city of Charlotte and Charlotte Water.
“I worked under the Chief Financial Officer of Charlotte Water, Chad Howell, and I worked with them on the budget process while analyzing their $413 million budget,” Middleton said. “I also analyzed interlocal agreements with neighboring cities and contributed to the bond rating process. I was able to sit in on all of the executive and leadership meetings between the city and its department heads.”
No stranger to the importance of time management, Middleton had to juggle his time between his business, athletic and academic pursuits.
“My schedule was very tough during this offseason,” Middleton said. “I would get to my internship around 7 a.m. and work until 11:30 a.m. I trained from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and went back to work from 2 to 5:30 p.m. I did that every day except on Tuesdays and Wednesdays when I had class in Boone.”
On top of his already demanding schedule as a professional athlete, graduate student and intern, Middleton founded the Dream the Impossible Initiative, a non-profit organization.
“I wanted to bring awareness of mental health through speaking engagements, youth development and other awareness events,” Middleton said. “It was developed after the death of my best friend to bring light to his fight with severe depression and mental illness. The goal of this organization is to let people know that they are not alone and can get help. You can still accomplish your dreams no matter what illness you are fighting.”
Middleton has already started back with the Jets to prepare for the upcoming season. He suffered a torn pectoral muscle during the 2017 preseason and spent the entire regular season on the reserve/injured list.
“After football, my plan is to either start an MBA or continue to do internships and make more connections in state and local government,” he said. “Being in the NFL, you know that it does not last forever. I wanted to make sure that I had a career in place once I was done playing. That is what motivated me every day – not wanting to let my family down or my future family down.”
His advice to all aspiring students and student-athletes?
“Invest everything you have into your dreams and do not ever let someone tell you that your dreams cannot come true,” Middleton said. “Wake up every day with a purpose and you will accomplish everything you want in life.”