Ron Middleton, NY Jets, Senior Bowl, Head Coach
Ron Middleton, New York Jets, Getty Images

The National Team had some big inspiration from Ron Middleton prior to Saturday’s triumph

Ron Middleton was the head coach of a game officially known as the Reese’s Senior Bowl on Saturday afternoon. His last nugget of pregame wisdom to his assembled collegiate all-stars, however, was anything but sweet.

The New York Jets‘ tight ends coach reassumed top duties at the revamped Senior Bowl, which allows assistants from the respective coaching staffs to handle expanded duties in the annual showcase. Middleton previously served as the Jets’ head coach when regular boss Robert Saleh was out due to COVID-19 protocols in December and his lively personality en route to a 26-21 victory over Jacksonville gained him a bit of a cult following amongst football fans.

Saturday allowed Middleton to improve on his unofficial perfect record as a head coach, guiding the National Team to a 20-10 victory over the American Team coached by the Detroit Lions staff at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, AL.

After viewing footage of his pregame speech, shared by both NFL Network and the Jets’ official social channels, it’s easy to see why the group was able to emerge with a solid victory in the exhibition.

“If it moves, hit it! If it don’t move, hit it! And if you’re not sure, guess what, hit it!” Middleton tells his proteges, who join him on the last refrain. “Let’s come out of this the most physical team on that field today regardless. Let’s win the hitting battle.”

It appears that the National Team took Middleton’s advice to heart. The group put up eight sacks, with Jesse Luketa (Penn State), Boye Mafe (Minnesota), and game MVP Perrion Winfrey (Oklahoma) earning two each. The defense as a whole gave up only 269 yards in the victory and JT Woods (Baylor) forced a turnover via interception.

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Middleton praised his group’s physicality when NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero interviewed him en route to the halftime intermission, when the National team held a 13-0 lead. He was pleased with the offensive strength as well, noting that the blocking group was able to allow downhill rushing. Rachaad White (Arizona State) and Abram Smith (Baylor) united for 100 yards on 22 carries.

With the win, Jets coaches improved to 2-2 all-time in Senior Bowl efforts. Middleton’s win with the National Team was the first for a green group since Weeb Ewbank led the South to a 33-30 victory over a North group led by Buffalo’s Lou Saban.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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Geoff Magliocchetti is a veteran football writer with years of credentialed experience with the Jets and Giants. Email:
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