April 26, 2009
By Carroll Rogers, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
FLOWERY BRANCH, GA, -- The Falcons made an impressive pick with their fifth-round choice and not just for his football. William Middleton, a 5-10 cornerback from Norcross, has a backup plan if this NFL thing doesn't work out: a career in medicine.
Middleton graduated from Furman with a degree in biology last May and took the MCAT, the medical college admission test, in June. He returned to Furman last fall to take graduate classes and finish out his eligibility in football.
He planned to apply to the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, the Medical College of Georgia and Howard.
"I tried to set up a fallback plan in case the NFL doesn't work out for me," said Middleton, who won a state championship his senior year at Marist. "People are always going to get sick. That's not going anywhere. The NFL is something you can't just pass on."
Middleton was not invited to the NFL combine but watched it closely on flat-screen TVs at XPE Sports, the gym where he works out in Roswell.
"More than sulking or getting upset, I wanted to show that I should have been there," he said.
Middleton visited a handful of teams, including Indianapolis, Detroit, Cincinnati, and the New York Giants.
He called it a blessing to get drafted by his hometown Falcons. He has never been to Flowery Branch but remembers well the days when the Falcons trained at Furman.
"I remember seeing the Falcons walk back and forth," Middleton said. "They took our locker room at training camp; we were dressing outside."
Middleton was playing Wii tennis with some friends at his parents' house in Norcross and eating hot wings when the call came.