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Doug Middleton was impressing the New York Jets with his playmaking skills last summer when a torn pectoral muscle sidelined him for the season.
The young safety refused to wallow in disappointment. He hit the books 鈥?and his rehabilitation 鈥?with fierce determination.
Nearly a year later Justin Reid Jersey Texans , Middleton has a master's degree in public administration from Appalachian State on his resume. He also created a nonprofit in honor of his best friend who took his own life last summer. And, he's having another terrific training camp while competing for a job in Todd Bowles' secondary.
"Yeah, I'm proud, very happy," Middleton said after a recent practice. "I mean, pretty much all that came from me starting my foundation and me having a position whenever football does come to an end, I'm pretty much taken care of. It just handled a lot of different things for me and just made me feel comfortable and more at peace when I'm out here now."
The 24-year-old Middleton graduated from Appalachian State in May 2015 with a bachelor's degree in political science. He entered the graduate program during his redshirt senior year and started chipping away at his master's with a concentration in town, city and county management.
When he got hurt in the Jets' preseason opener against Tennessee last August, Middleton wasted no time coming up with a game plan.
"It was pretty crazy," he said with a big smile. "In the offseason before my second year, I finished my second semester in the program. Once I got hurt, I asked Coach Bowles pretty much the day after they said I was going to be out for the season, I was like, 'I want to go home and finish my master's.'
"He said he was cool and told me to just go back home and rehab there and finish school."
So, Middleton headed to North Carolina and drove what he estimates was about 1,000 miles a week between his home in Winston-Salem to rehab in Charlotte and classes in Boone on campus at Appalachian State.
He spent several hours a day trying to get his body healthy again for football. And, then he was putting in lots of classroom work to earn his master's degree. Middleton also secured an internship with the city of Charlotte and Charlotte Water.
"A lot of people looked at it like Cheap Dorian O'Daniel Jersey , 'Oh, he's on IR. He's got a vacation,'" Middleton said. "It wasn't really like that."
Not at all.
Middleton worked with the chief financial officer of Charlotte Water during his internship, regularly taking part in budget meetings. Charlotte Water supplies water to the city and its municipalities, so Middleton had to make sure that guidelines were being followed and helped work on the next budget for the city.
The experience was invaluable to Middleton, who received his master's in May and wants to be a city manager when his football career ends.
Oh, and get this: He's already working on getting his second master's from Appalachian State, this one in finance.
"I came up with this plan about halfway through my senior year," Middleton said. "I started in the accelerated program for my MPA and I just always had it in the back of my head that you can't play football forever. No matter if I play 10 years or two years, whenever it happened and came to an end, I'd be on my feet and ready to go. That's what it's all been about. I still hope to play 10 years and whatever happens in between, I can really sit back and just enjoy football now."
He's certainly playing that way.
Middleton, signed as an undrafted free agent in 2016, has been a consistent standout during practices this summer while filling in for the injured Marcus Maye with the starters early in camp and also working on special teams.
"Before he got hurt (last year), Doug was coming on," Bowles said. "Obviously, he's a swing player 鈥?he can play both (safety) spots. Any time you're a swing player Authentic Luke Falk Jersey , that makes you valuable. He's just in the right space at the right time."
Middleton has also been motivated by the memory of his childhood buddy A.J. Morrison, who killed himself a week before the safety reported for training camp last summer.
Middleton spoke at the funeral, which was the day before he had to report to the team.
"There were a lot of mixed emotions while trying to focus on camp and getting ready for my second year," he said, "but at the same time, I was grieving the death of my best friend."
He got on a plane later that night and headed to New Jersey to join his teammates. But, Middleton knew he needed to do more.
Last December, he established the "Dream The Impossible" initiative in Morrison's memory to help promote mental health awareness. He set up a Christmas event during which 32 disadvantaged kids were provided with holiday gifts and dinner while also learning about mental health. It earned him one of the NFL's Community MVP awards last season.
"He fights battles that he doesn't even know and he helps people he doesn't even realize," Middleton said of his late friend. "It may sound bad, kind of, but his life has helped so many other people and is going to continue to help so many people. He's had a very positive impact on this world."
Middleton is working to do the same 鈥?on and off the field 鈥?while also trying to serve as an example to youngsters.
"I try to find the positive in every situation, as you can tell," Middleton said with a big smile. "No matter what it is, I just try to roll with it and figure it out."
Scott Foster thought it was going to be just another night. Then the 36-year-old accountant signed a contract, put on his goaltender gear and waited in Chicago’s locker room. Then he got into the game.
Then it was his night.
Foster was pressed into action when Chicago lost Anton Forsberg and Collin Delia to injuries, and the former college goalie stopped all seven shots he faced over the final 14 minutes of the Blackhawks‘ 6-2 victory over the playoff-bound Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.
”This is something that no one can ever take away from me,” Foster said. ”It’s something that I can go home and tell my kids and they can tell their friends. … Just a ton of fun.”
Foster is part of a crew of recreational goaltenders who staff Chicago’s home games in case of emergencies for either team. But it usually just means a nice dinner and a night in the press box watching the world’s best players compete at hockey’s highest level.
Nothing at all like this.
”What a moment Authentic Marquis Haynes Jersey ,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said with a chuckle.
Forsberg was expected to start, but he got hurt during a ”pregame ritual,” according to Quenneville. Delia, who was just recalled from the minors Wednesday, then stopped 25 of 27 shots in his NHL debut before he was helped off the ice with 14:01 left after he cramped up.
Enter Foster, a married father of two who lives in nearby Oak Park and plays in two rec leagues. After a short warmup, the game resumed and Foster got a big cheer from the crowd of 21,839 when he denied Tyler Myers for his first save about a minute after he came in.
”The initial shock happened when I had to dress. I think you just kind of black out after that,” Foster said.
Backed by chants of ”Foster! Foster!” and more loud ovations, he made another stop on Myers and turned away Paul Stastny and Dustin Byfuglien in the final minutes. When it was over, the Blackhawks poured onto the ice and mobbed Foster in the net.
”He was great,” defenseman Brent Seabrook said. ”I think the boys were doing whatever they could to help him out. He made some big saves. Fun night.”
The Jets had won six in a row and were trying to clinch home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. But even they were moved by what happened.
”It’s tough for anybody to come in 50 minutes into a hockey game, let alone a guy who hasn’t played in the (NHL),” coach Paul Maurice said. ”A great moment for him.”
Carolina Hurricanes equipment manager Jorge Alves became the first emergency goalie to play in a game in the modern era last season. He closed out the final 7.6 seconds of a 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay.
The NHL adjusted its rules last summer to mandate that teams have an emergency goalie present for all home games ready to fill in for either team – setting the stage for Foster’s most competitive action since 20 minutes in relief with Western Michigan University in the 2005-06 season.
”A few hours ago I was sitting on the computer typing on a 10-key, and now I’m standing in front of you guys having just finished 14 1/2 minutes of NHL hockey,” he cracked.
It was a wild finish to one of Chicago’s best performances in a lousy season.
Tomas Jurco scored a career-high two goals in Seabrook’s 1,000th regular-season game Kyle Long Jersey , and touted prospect Dylan Sikura had two assists in his NHL debut. Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat and defenseman Erik Gustafsson each had a goal and an assist, and Brandon Saad also scored.
The 32-year-old Seabrook got the start alongside fellow alternate captain and frequent defensive partner Duncan Keith. He became the fifth player in franchise history to skate in 1,000 or more games for the team, joining Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, Eric Nesterenko and Bob Murray.
Bryan Little scored his 200th NHL goal for Winnipeg in the opener of a four-game trip. Mark Scheifele also scored for the Jets, and Eric Comrie made 36 saves while subbing for starter Connor Hellebuyck.
”It wasn’t a good night,” Little said. ”It wasn’t good from the start. It’s one of those games you want to forget and put behind you and look to the next one.”
Kane got Chicago off to a fast start when he shot it between Comrie’s legs for his 27th goal 3:44 into the first, and the Blackhawks just poured it on from there. Saad made it 2-0 with a nifty move to his backhand in front at 17:17.
Jurco added two goals in the second before Little got Winnipeg on the board with his 16th of the season at 14:24. But Gustafsson responded for the Blackhawks, scoring on a nice rush to the net at 17:27.
NOTES: Quenneville said Delia was going to travel with the team to Colorado and should be fine for Friday night’s game against the Avalanche. With four games left in the season, he said Forsberg (lower body) is likely done for the year. Jean-Francois Berube was recalled from Rockford of the AHL on an emergency basis.
Jets: Visit Toronto on Saturday night.
Blackhawks: Visit Colorado on Friday night.
Jay Cohen can be reached at .