No one would blame Middlebrooks if he would be over anxious to return to the gridiron, yet the now again running back was judicious with his approach.
"Coming into my senior year I didn't want to try to rush it because I know ACLs are a long process," Middlebrooks said. "I knew during the couple months that I was going through rehab that I was going to have to redshirt."
The toughest aspect concerning his rehab, was the mental component according to Middlebrooks. He had to watch his teammates do the things he wanted to be able to do and achieve a 10-win season in the process. Therefore, he was resolved to work hard in order to see the field again.
"It's a mental process," Middlebrooks explained. "There are a lot of things that you can't do but you wish you could do, especially watching all the guys during the summer running and everything. It's difficult, it's just having faith. It's all a mental aspect.
"You're going to push your body to its limits and it's all about telling yourself ‘I can do this.' If you say that you're not going to be able to do it then to do it then you aren't going to be able to do it. It's all about having that good mindset."
It was hard being on the sidelines during such a successful season. Although Middlebrooks wished he could be out there carrying the ball he was still contributing during practices.
"It's always hard," Middlebrooks said about watching from the sideline. "Especially when we're beating all these good teams and having great records. I still contributed on scout team, helping the defense by running the ball and still being a leader out there and being vocal."
As successful as Middlebrooks may be these days, It is certainly going to be a tall task from here on out to earning playing time in the fall. For starters, you have a fierce competition battle among the senior and returning players D.J. Foster and Deantre Lewis. Additionally, the summer arrival of three talented newcomers will present that a new set of challenges. Middlebrooks though is confident that the returning players and himself will be making each other better in the spring and sharing the playing time in the fall.
"I don't know if it's going to be hard but it's going to be a tough road," he said. "It's all about my mindset, just working hard every day and trying to make plays, doing things right and just learning. We're always going to have competition. We've been knowing each other for a long time now, but it's just about getting better. We're always going to push each other that's the main thing."
"As long as we're pushing each other we're all going to play."
Middlebrooks isn't worried about practice observers viewing him as a surprise, or just as a player that is playing up to his potential. He feels a great sense of urgency in his last go-around in Tempe to make an impact in 2014. The running back is ready to take any opportunity he is given on offense and special teams, and make the most of it.
"I'm going to work on all my little aspects, pass blocking, catching the ball," Middlebrooks described, "work on my return game, that's my main thing, I just want to focus on that and just reading the holes.
"I'm just going to do me and just work hard to be honest."