Seniors Matthew Middleton Jr., Jordan Edwards and Caterina Martineau sat on stage Feb. 5, while an auditorium of their Fort Campbell High School classmates watched them sign letters of intent to play college sports.
Middleton, 17, will play football for Riverside City College in California; Edwards, 17, will play football at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania; and Martineau, 18, will play soccer for Wabash Valley College in Illinois.
Middleton and Martineau inked two-year commitments for scholarships and then plan to move on to other universities. Edwards signed a four-year commitment to play football and hopes to have a full scholarship after his first year.
“National Signing Day is an opportunity for student-athletes to take their game to the next level,” said Angie McLean, FCHS assistant athletics director. “To showcase their abilities and talents after giving many years of blood, sweat and tears.”
All have faced challenges – from injuries, to moving, to wanting at times to give up. But all stuck with it and say their hard work is making their dreams come true.
“I have been playing soccer since I was a Pee Wee, like house league, where we all ran after the ball and jumped on top of each other and didn’t really know what soccer was,” Martineau said.
She stuck with the sport over the years, on school teams, travel teams, community teams and anywhere else she could find, depending on where her Family was stationed at the time.
“I remember when I was a little girl just playing Pee Wee soccer and I always dreamed I wanted to play college soccer, she said. “I never thought it would actually happen. The chances of getting a soccer scholarship with how popular it is – I’m still in awe. I don’t even think it’s real. I don’t even think I’m going to a college to play soccer until I probably step foot on that campus and go to my first practice.”
Middleton has dreamed of playing in the National Football League for as long as he can remember and hopes his two years working on an associate’s degree at Riverside City College will help him get into the shape he needs to play for a large university while getting a bachelor’s degree.
“I think I’m the most underrated player in the nation,” Middleton said.
But there have been moments of doubt.
“This past year, I was hit with [Irritable Bowel Syndrome] and they think it might be Crohn’s Disease, so I lost a lot of weight rapidly,” he said. “I got really sick over time and lost a lot of strength. This is just the best place to get back up to my 185-pound stature, where I was playing at.”
Middleton started playing football in seventh grade and was picked to play for his school’s varsity high school team in the eighth grade.
Since arriving at FCHS in his junior year, he has been the starting quarterback.
“Honestly, a month ago, I was ready to hang up my cleats and stop playing football because of the toll the game took on my body,” Middleton said.
But despite health issues, shoulder tears, broken ribs, concussions and other injuries, he wasn’t ready to give up his football dreams and said he puts in the hard work to be successful.
“It’s one of those games you can’t just show up and be successful at,” Middleton said. “I traded a certain sweat equity when it came to this game. To be successful, I don’t win on the field Friday nights. I win it Monday through Thursday with preparation and practice.”
Football has helped him in many ways, he said, from tuning out distractions and focusing on his mission, to finding his path.
Although Edwards’ path will lead him to Pennsylvania as a wide-receiver, he credits football with shaping him into the person he is today.
“Football has taught me not only to strive to be a better person, it has taught me to have a better overall mindset in life,” Edwards said. “Football is like a life lesson. Football is there to help you be better as a person.”
He has attended school at Fort Campbell since sixth grade and said his fellow players have become like Family.
Edwards made the commitment to Mansfield University when the school’s coach said the team there is like family. Other recruiters also talked about what their programs had to offer, but he wanted the feel of a smaller school with close teammates.
“This one school said ‘We’re family,’ and that’s what got me,” Edwards said. “A player told me that and the coach. It was a dealmaker.”
He said he dreamed of playing high school football and now that he’s achieved that Edwards can make his dream of playing college ball come true as well.
“When I was a sophomore, I just thought to myself, what if I could play college football, and then junior year came and I was like, maybe I’m not good enough and then my senior year, coach wanted me and I was blown away,” Edwards said.
Each athlete took a place at tables on the stage of FCHS’s auditorium while their teammates and classmates looked on. Each table was decorated with helmets or balls from their future schools.
“Just to give you a little perspective, recent data tells us that only about 2% of high school student athletes receive an athletic scholarship for college,” McLean told the crowd. “And we at Fort Campbell High School have three student athletes who are part of the 2%. What an accomplishment.”
Martineau “excelled both on and off the field with academic excellence and athletic accolades for both track and field and soccer,” McLean said.
She was co-captain of the Lady Falcon’s soccer team.
“It is Caterina’s exemplary play and leadership abilities that earned her a well-deserved soccer scholarship,” McLean said. “Way to go, Caterina.”
McLean said Edwards came in fourth in the state of Kentucky for receiving yards with 542 total years, ranking him seventh for Division 2A. He was named 2019 Player of the Year.
“Throughout Jordan’s four years at Fort Campbell High School, he has developed into a football force to be reckoned with,” McLean said. “Along the way, Jordan has acquired many awards, nominations and outstanding statistics.”
He also participated in the Blue and Grey National Combine.
“Statistic wise, Jordan acquired 600-plus receiving yards, 70-plus receptions and seven touchdowns,” she said. “Jordan had 800-plus all-purpose yards and a total of eight touchdowns. Incredible results.”
Middleton’s high school career “is bursting with awards and impressive statistics,” McLean said.
“Matthew was named an All Time Beaver River Passing Leader, a two-time New York Section 3 First Team Quarterback, the 2018 Skill Position Player of the Year, a two-time All-Western Kentucky Conference award winner, the 2019 Team MVP, the 2020 Top Gun First Team award winner, the No. 1 2020 Top Gun Quarterback and finally, Matt was named to the All-American National Combine Team,” McLean said.
“Matt has thrown over 6,000 passing yards, 60 touchdown passes and has an impressive 58% completion percentage,” she said. “These stats, his athleticism and dedication to the sport of football have earned him his scholarship.”
The students sat at the tables with their parents and coaches as they listened to McLean list their accomplishments. There were smiles and a few emotional moments as each of the three briefly spoke to their classmates about their plans and their experiences at FCHS.
“I’m excited and without crying, that’s all I got,” said Lisa Middleton, as her son prepared to sign. “It’s just a really great feeling as a parent to know your child had a dream he was able to accomplish. A lot of parents don’t get that.”
Sergeant Major Matthew Middleton Sr., Division Retention, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), said he is proud his son has overcome so much and will pursue his dream.
“It makes me proud,” he said. “He put in a lot of hard work to get here. He’s definitely resilient, with all the moves.”
Jordan Edward’s father was training in California and could not attend but his mother, Candice Edwards, said the entire Family, including two younger sisters, are excited.
“There was a lot of undecided up in the air for a while but he finally committed,” Candice Edwards said. “It’s a long, long way from home, which is not ideal, but we’ll make it work. We are really proud of him for all his accomplishments.”
Former Coach Kyle Sperling sat with Jordan Edwards and spoke about both him and Matthew Middleton Jr.
“I could stand up here and boast about both these guys’ football stats, about how Jordan has more single season receptions than anyone I could find in school history, and how Matt has thrown for somewhere near 5,000 yards in his high school career,” Sperling said. “But to me, this is about the young men they are and where they are going.”
Sperling talked about Edward’s competitiveness, his thirst for being a receiver and his selfless sportsmanship. He said Matthew Middleton Jr. is one of the best young men he has ever been around.
Coach Michele Ellis said Martineau joined the Lady’s Falcon’s in her junior year and quickly became a leader.
“She was there because she wanted to be,” Ellis said. “Her talent quickly was seen by all. I am extremely proud to be a small part in her soccer career.”