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Mids' Middleton, Buckeyes' Russell Reunited on the Field

Wyatt Middleton has a lot in common with Anderson Russell. Both were standout football players and solid students at Marist School in Atlanta. Both come from athletic, accomplished families. (Check out the story I wrote about Middleton and his family in our college football preview section.) Both are defensive leaders for their respective teams, and have NFL potential.

But one plays safety for the Midshipmen, and the other for Ohio State. Middleton, a junior at Navy, doesn't think about the different paths that he and Russell took. Middleton "definitely has the talent to play anywhere in the country, if he wanted," Russell said in a telephone interview. Middleton just chose to take his talents to Navy.

"I took a visit to Ohio State," Middleton said. "I feel that I could've went big time, I could've played in the SEC or ACC. This is just the path that I chose. I'm glad I'm doing well here, so I really don't look at it like that. I don't dwell on the what-if's."

Russell, a senior and three-year starter at safety for the Buckeyes, and Middleton were teammates for three seasons in high school.

Middleton remembers Russell as a stud running back, and is still shocked that Russell was able to make the transition to the secondary. "Offensively, he was the man," Middleton said. "Defensively, he couldn't even backpedal. I'm being dead serious. He'd trip over himself."

Russell remembers Middleton as a hard-hitting linebacker. "He was a real tough kid in high school, and it took him a while to grow into his body," Russell said. "He always hit well, and I've seen that transfer to Navy."

Middleton and Russell still keep in touch, and have traded text messages this week. They doubt they'll face each other in the game, but plan on saying hi either before or afterward.

Having a friend and former high school teammate — a peer — on Ohio State doesn't give Middleton more of a reason to believe that he and his Navy teammates can play with the sixth-ranked Buckeyes. Middleton, whom Coach Ken Niumatalolo describes as Navy's best player, already believed that.

"Me, personally, I go into every situation thinking that, no matter who we're playing," Middleton said. "They put their pants on just like I do. They bleed, just like I bleed. Even if I were two steps slower or 20 pounds lighter, I would go into a situation thinking the same thing. He's just a man like I am. That's how I look at every situation when it comes to playing big teams. College is college. You have great athletes everywhere."

By Camille Powell  |  September 3, 2009; 3:35 PM ET
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