Most football fans know Harlan County’s Jake Middleton for his exploits on the gridiron, but that is just one of the many areas where the standout tailback shines.
“You can only say great things about Jake. He is a great kid and a great football player,” said Harlan County coach Tom Larkey. “He just has the kind of personality that you fall in love with. He is not a complainer. He is not jealous or envious of anybody. When it is his turn he is going to do all he can.”
Middleton is one of the top performing Black Bears in the classroom, and insists that academics, not athletics, are his top priority.
“I put academics before I do sports. I feel a lot better if I am one of the top students in the school, than I do if I am one of the top football players. I feel like that is more important than anything,” Middleton said.
“He is one of the top students in his senior class. He has high tests scores and a high grade-point average. He is a super kid in the classroom and is really a teacher’s dream to have,” Larkey added.
On the football field, Middleton is having one of the best seasons in school history. He has rushed for 1,757 yards and 24 touchdowns on 219 carries this year and is currently third in the state in scoring. Middleton is also a standout on the defensive side of the football, and is one of the team’s leading tacklers.
“He has some vision about him. I also feel he has a lot of trust in the people ahead of him,” Larkey said. “He is just the type of tailback that you can count on. He just hits up in the hole and does his best.”
Much like his effort in the classroom, it is Middleton’s work ethic in the weight-room and the offseason that allows him to excel on the gridiron.
“I know that nothing is ever given to you, especially if you are not naturally more athletic than other people. You have to work to get where you need to be. I know it takes a lot of hard work. Without hard work you will never succeed in life,” he said. “I figured it would be really hard to get playing time because of all of the talent coming from the other schools. I wanted to be one of the best to come from Harlan County. That was has been my goal.”
Middleton said he hopes that work ethic can help lead the Black Bears to another regional championship.
“We want another regional championship,” he said. “I think that the younger kids look at how I work and see that it does pay off. I hope they see how being unselfish and a team player will make the team better.”