NCF Nation: Wyatt Middleton

Middleton keeps making plays for Navy

December, 13, 2010
Wyatt Middleton has been the heart of the Navy defense for some time now, so it was not surprising to see him make the game-changing play this past weekend against Army.

With the Black Knights poised to get into the end zone and cut into a 17-7 Navy lead, Tyler Simmons forced Army quarterback Trent Steelman to fumble. Middleton was there to return the fumble 98 yards for a touchdown -- the first Navy defensive score of the season. The Midshipmen won their ninth straight in the rivalry game, and Middleton was selected MVP of the game.

I had a chance to speak with Middleton before the game last week about the coming end of his career. Here you have a player who has started 47 straight games, with 204 solo tackles, who earned his role as team captain. But as with most every service academy player, his story is more impressive than what happens on the football field. Middleton took 17 credit hours during the fall and is on pace to graduate in May with a degree in systems engineering. He already has his assignment as a surface warfare engineering duty officer, and would welcome working with robotics during the time he serves in the Navy.

But an opportunity to play in the NFL might come first. His brother, William, was a fifth-round choice out of Furman and has spent the past two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Middleton would love an opportunity to join his brother in the pros.

"It’s been a dream of mine to play at the top level," Wyatt said in the phone interview. "My brother living his dream right now makes me want to live the dream even more."

Wyatt Middleton says he has had scouts come watch him at practice, though he has not gotten much feedback about where he stands. He wants to finish this season out before thinking about his potential pro future. All Service Academy athletes have to serve a minimum of two years before putting up a request to have their remaining three years doubled in the reserves. Each request goes to the respective Secretaryand it is up to them if they want to grant it.

Navy has one game left against San Diego State in the S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 23.

If Navy wins, this senior class would tie the class of 1909 as the winningest in Navy history. It would also be the first time Navy notches 10 wins in back-to-back seasons. Middleton has been a big reason for all the success.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November, 25, 2010
Happy Thanksgiving to all! Hope you get to spend today with lots of food, family and football -- it will be a great treat to see whether Texas can pull the upset and become bowl-eligible tonight against Texas A&M.

What are you thankful for today? Here is my list:

Passionate college football fans, who are all to eager to tell you that you are either 1) The smartest person alive or 2) The dumbest person who ever lived and should be scrubbing toilets rather than talking college football. I love you all!

Boise State and TCU. Haters can hate all they want, but we are seeing something this season that may never happen again. This is history in the making, the possibility that a non-AQ makes it into the national championship game. With Boise State and TCU set to be in the same conference in 2011, Utah leaving for the Pac-12 and the implosion of the WAC, this could very well be the last time we see two undefeated non-AQ teams jockeying for position in a national championship race.

The Pistol offense. It's nice to see Nevada coach Chris Ault get all the pub he has gotten for his innovative offense this season. Not only have countless stories been done on him, but several teams throughout college football are now running some version of it, from UCLA to Alabama to Stanford.

Great coaching jobs. Look across the non-AQs and you will find plenty -- TCU coach Gary Patterson and Boise State coach Chris Petersen go without saying. Here are a few others:
  • Miami (Ohio) coach Mike Haywood -- Took a 1-11 team to an 8-4 record and a share of the East Division title.
  • Ohio coach Frank Solich -- Overcame the loss of three star players to lead his team to a share of the MAC East.
  • Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill -- On the verge of a 10-win season for the Huskies.
  • FIU coach Mario Cristobal -- Has his never-been-bowling Panthers one win away from a Sun Belt title.
  • UCF coach George O'Leary -- Has his team one win from the C-USA title game with a freshman quarterback and an outstanding defense.
  • BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall -- His team is bowl-eligible after starting the season 1-4.
Great players. You know the headliners. Here are some of the most unheralded from the non-AQs: Western Kentucky RB Bobby Rainey, who has carried the ball a whopping 313 times this season and ranks No. 4 in the country in rushing, averaging 135 yards a game. North Texas back Lance Dunbar is right behind him in the Sun Belt. Dominique Davis of East Carolina, Bryant Moniz of Hawaii, Alex Carder of Western Michigan and Corey Robinson of Troy all rank in the top 10 in the nation in passing.

Great WR duos, too: Titus Young and Austin Pettis at Boise State; Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares at Hawaii; Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson at San Diego State; Juan Nunez and Jordan White at Western Michigan.

Defensively, it's hard not to like Jamon Hughes of Memphis, Bobby Wagner of Utah State, Dwayne Woods of Bowling Green, Vinny Curry and Mario Harvey of Marshall, Archie Donald and Danny Molls of Toledo, the entire TCU and Boise State defenses, Josh McNary of Army and Wyatt Middleton of Navy. Three of the best special-teamers in the nation are from non-AQs too: Shaky Smithson of Utah, Jeremy Kerley of TCU and Darius Johnson of Tulsa.

Happy eating, everyone!
Seven players from the nonautomatic qualifying schools have been named to the watch list for the Lott Trophy, an award that recognizes both on-field and off-field characteristics.

The Lott Trophy winner will be announced Dec. 12 in Newport Beach, Calif. The recipient receives $25,000 for his school's general scholarship fund, while three runners-up each receive $5,000 for their schools' scholarship funds.

Last season, TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes became the first player from a nonautomatic qualifying school to win the award.

Here’s a look at the non-AQs honored:

2010 Lott Trophy Watch List

Jeron Johnson, S, Boise State, 5-11, 194, Compton, Ca.
Tejay Johnson, S, TCU, 6-1, 212, Garland, Tx.
Josh McNary, DE, Army, 6-1, 225, Houston
Wyatt Middleton, S, Navy, 6-2, 208, Norcross, Ga.
Dontay Moch, DE, Nevada, 6-1, 245, Chandler, Az.
Andrew Rich, S, BYU, 6-3, 223, Ogden, Utah
Anthony Wright, CB, Air Force, 5-10, 190, Cleveland