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Javonte Middleton, More Than a Football Player

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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On National Signing Day, Middleton, true to his convictions, signed with The Citadel. Football is only part of his potential.

Javonte Middleton has always seen the big picture. As a quarterback for H.V. Jenkins, he helped the Warriors win their first region championship since 1966, then go back-to-back while also going undefeated for the first time in school history. As a young leader in the community, Middleton has been a constant in civic engagements. The notion of being a true student-athlete is one that he has long taken seriously, also embracing the responsibility that football sometimes brings.

On National Signing Day, Middleton, true to his convictions, signed with The Citadel. Football is only part of his potential.

What Middleton did on the field was historic. During his four-year career, Jenkins won 34 games, setting a school mark with ten wins in 2016, then resetting that record with 12 victories in 2017. The two most-productive seasons, ever, for the Warriors were Middleton's upperclassman runs: 33.6 points per game after 35.3 the year prior. Jenkins peaked inside the state top five this past fall, with Middleton winning the Michael Finocchiaro Memorial Outstanding Football Player Award given to Savannah's best player.

As an upperclassman, Middleton threw 28 touchdown passes and ran for 22 more, pacing a newfound contender as a dynamic team leader. That accountability and ambition has followed Middleton like a shadow. From reading to children at local elementary schools to speaking at various municipal events, Middleton, the prized quarterback recruit, has often been Javonte the volunteer. He has both stood out and blended in, like a true captain often does. 

Middleton has a profile that fits the platform, one that he has prepared for quite some time. Above all else, The Citadel is getting a prospect and a person ready for the next-level.

"They expect me to lead. I wanted to go to a program that trusted me as a leader just as much as a football player," Middleton explained of joining the Bulldogs. "They want me to play quarterback. I believe being a team player is more important than scoring touchdowns."

The decision to head to Charleston was a multi-faceted one for Middleton. He chose The Citadel over multiple other offers, including one from Army. A two-star athlete, Middleton will have a chance to make an immediate impact with the Bulldogs. At a signing day ceremony with a number of his teammates, Middleton inked with The Citadel around 3pm Wednesday afternoon.   

Middleton weighed all of his options, ultimately making the call with input from his family.

"My mother and I sat down and we decided on this," Middleton continued. "We are confident in this decision we made and I'm confident, so that's where I'll be for the next four years."

From pursuing state titles in high school to, soon, chasing national championships in college, Middleton signs with a program rich in history. A number of the game's biggest names have played or coached along the Ashley River. Long ago, another heralded Coastal Georgia product headed north up highway 17, turning heads with an All-American career and, later, reaching the NFL: Stump Mitchell.

Two of the last three years under Brent Thompson, The Citadel has made the FCS playoffs. The Bulldogs, in 2015, defeated SEC foe South Carolina. The Citadel competes in the famed Southern Conference, which brings a spotlight all its own. Expectations, in Charleston, are unwavering.   

"I'm very proud to be part of that football tradition," Middleton added. "Every time I've been to the campus, someone has stopped me in the city because of the shirt I was wearing and told me about the tradition. Just being able to be a part of it and leaving my legacy within it is going to mean everything to myself, my family and the community where I'm from."

Even as he works towards contributing on the gridiron, Middleton's eyes will remain fixed on the horizon. All that he has done continues to be part of a bigger plan, one focused on the greater good. Helping others is a deep passion for MIddleton, who hopes to one day take what he learns at The Citadel all of the way to the public forum. 

There is so much opportunity ahead for Middleton. Soon, he will play Division I football and study at one of the nation's best institutions. What lies ahead is a chance to make an impact. 

When Middleton ponders the future, he thinks about more than just himself.

"I want to make a change in everything that I can. The civic stuff is a big part of what I do. I wake up every morning and I pray for guidance through that and for everything else in life," Middleton detailed. "Going to The Citadel, I feel like I can study policy, come out and get a degree and make a difference in the community aspect of things in urban life and urban living and places that I came from."

Through it all, Middleton's mother has helped guide his perspective. As Middleton pondered all that could be, he didn't have to look far to see why.

"This day is her day. She was my main determining factor in all of this. She has led me through all 18 years of my life," Middleton concluded. "We've always been close, but these past few nights we have become closer. My mother is everything and I just want to thank her from the bottom of my heart. Everything I have done is because of her."

The journey continues for Middleton. So, too, does the mission.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports