Taking on seemingly impossible challenges drives Drew Middleton on the football field.
That’s the only way to explain how Middleton, at 155 pounds, could survive, then thrive, on the football field as an all-district and all-conference center for the Harlan Green Dragons in the fall of 2012.
Middleton made another big adjustment as a senior last fall, shifting to running back where he was among the leaders in rushing yards and earned all-district and all-conference selections again. He had a season-high of 114 yards on seven carries in the Dragons’ 33-0 win at Jenkins.
Another challenge awaits Middleton this summer in Williamsburg as he joins the University of Cumberlands football program.
“He’s a tremendously well versed kid, a good kid from a good family,” Harlan coach J.B. Donahue said. “He’s got a tremendous work ethic. I think he knows he won’t play right away but is willing to work to get some time. He’s had to work for what he’s got in high school, which will help prepare him for the college level.”
Middleton, also a two-year starter at linebacker who was among the team leaders in tackles last year with 36 through the first nine games, is looking forward to moving up a level.
“I’m excited to play,” said Middleton. “I visited there and I really liked it. They go hard.”
Middleton will join a program that advanced all the way to the NAIA national finals a year ago. The Patriots were 13-1 last season, falling to Grand View University 35-23 in the NAIA championship game for their only loss.
Working his way into the lineup of a national contender will be a challenge, but Donahue says he won’t be surprised if Middleton eventually earns playing time. He’s already seen his 5-foot-6, 182-pound linebacker beat the odds many times before.
“It says a lot about his heart,” Donahue said. “That’s the No. 1 thing you get with Drew, heart and work. He’s a tremendous kid who really came in undersized and played on the line for us for three years. Then, when we needed him to he stepped into the backfield last year and played a good role for us there.”
“I enjoy it,” said Middleton of the challenge of taking on linemen 100 pounds or more bigger than him. “You have to cut them, then wait for them to stand up and hit them in the chin. I’ve never though I couldn’t compete. Playing college football has been a dream of mine since I was little.”