Former Georgia State standout Middleton making

STATESBORO, GA - NOVEMBER 4: Quarterback Shai Wertz #4 of the Georgia Southern Eagles is sacked by linebcker Chase Middleton #39 of the Georgia State Panthers at Paulson Stadium on November 4, 2017 in Statesboro, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Bennett/Getty Images)
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STATESBORO, GA - NOVEMBER 4: Quarterback Shai Wertz #4 of the Georgia Southern Eagles is sacked by linebcker Chase Middleton #39 of the Georgia State Panthers at Paulson Stadium on November 4, 2017 in Statesboro, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Bennett/Getty Images)

Falcons linebacker Chase Middleton, who played at Brookwood High and Georgia State, made a tackle on his first play in the NFL.

“It’s been cool to get him in the games, too,” Falcons linebacker coach Jeff Ulbrich said. “His first NFL play was a tackle for loss and a nice tackle, too. Who says they get to start their NFL career in that way, it was so cool. I’m happy for him.”

With most of the starters resting in last week's exhibition against the Redskins, Middleton, who was signed by the Falcons on Aug. 9, will get an opportunity to add to his tackle total in the exhibition season finale against the Jaguars at 7 p.m. Thursday at TIAA Bank Field

Middleton was a two-year starter at inside linebacker and ranks sixth in Georgia State history with 191 career tackles, including with 8.5 tackles for loss, one interception and six pass break-ups, in 48 games for the Panthers.

After his stellar career, Middleton was signed by the Texans as an undrafted free agent and was waived in May.  He was on the Falcons’ radar after participating in the team’s locals day leading up to the draft.

“It was a process after leaving Houston for a little bit, just coming back and not know what to do next,” Middleton said. “I just had a good group of people around me to keep at it. Then always keeping God first was a big thing for me as well.

“Just keeping him first and staying with the faith, that was the biggest thing for me. Definitely, just working out day by day and then just seeing what happens from there.”

Coming into camp so late, Middleton had to hit the ground running.

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Falcons linebacker Chase Middelton after practice on Sunday in Flowery Branch. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

Falcons linebacker Chase Middelton after practice on Sunday in Flowery Branch. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)
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Falcons linebacker Chase Middelton after practice on Sunday in Flowery Branch. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

“It’s been going really well,” Middleton said. “I’m trying to play fast. Guys have been real welcoming. Just taking me under their wing and teaching me the play book. I’m trying to take it one day at a time.”

Middleton was ready when the Falcons called his number against the Redskins.

“It was amazing,” Middleton said. “Especially on your first play in the NFL. Just getting a big hit like that, it was something special. I’m very happy for the opportunity. I’m just trying to build off of that. I come up here working every day.”

After getting released by the Texans, Middleton had to contemplate life after football. His father, Keith Middleton, who played basketball at Bowling Green, let him know that he might have to consider finding a job.

For now, Middleton, who majored in Economics, can put off that job search.

“It was a Tuesday that they had me come work out,” Middleton said. “They didn’t sign me on the spot, but a couple of days later my agent called me and told me they were about to sign me. I was in a Chick-fil-A restaurant about to scream in the restaurant I was so excited. It was a blessing just getting that call.”

The Falcons are crowded at linebacker, but Middleton may do enough to make the practice squad.

“He’s doing good,” Ulbrich said. “He’s a fantastic kid. Essence of ball type kid. Tough. Goes hard. He’s all in. He loves ball. He’s got a passion for it. He’s been awesome to have in the room and out here at practice.”

His big hit on that first play also caught the attention of coach Dan Quinn.

“He didn’t get a lot of reps defensively, but what you did see the week before was his speed,” Quinn said. “That’s what we look for at linebacker. The speed. He had a good hit on a short-yardage play, coming over the top. For the first NFL play to have a real strong TFL, that would always be something. Good guy, who’s making some progress.”

Middleton plans to put his best foot forward against the Jaguars.

“Definitely graduating, that was a big priority for me,” Middleton said. “Just being able to get my degree so that no matter what happens, I’ll be good at the end of the day. That was definitely a big thing for me, being able to network with different people once football is over for me, just having those connections, I thought would be very helpful as well.”

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