By ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 1, 2000
The 6-3, 334-pound guard is said to be one of the straightest shooters in the locker room and now you know why. Here's Frank Middleton, 25, on his father, parenthood, diet foods, Michael Jackson, Marion Jones and teammate Warren Sapp:
RM: You grew up with your mom and two sisters, what was that like?
FM: I was the only boy and the baby. It was cool. I never had a job. My mom had two jobs and my two older sisters had jobs and they took care of me so I all I had to do was go to school, get good grades and play football and they did the rest.
RM: So, you were probably spoiled?
FM: Not really. Now, they are spoiled. We took turns. In the first few years of my life, they took care of me and now it's my turn to take care of them. It was never to the point where I got everything that I wanted. I was the kid who got the (generic brand) instead of the Nikes.
RM: Was it hard being the only male in the house?
FM: It was tough enough just being the baby. I had to grow up fast. I had to be the aggressive one. You know when you have two older sisters everyone would say, "Here comes the punk." So, I always had to prove myself. It got me ready for (the NFL).
RM: Did you miss your dad?
FM: You can't miss what you never had. He wasn't there until I was 10, then all of a sudden he popped up and then left again. I never missed him.
RM: When you think of American heroes who do you think of?
FM: Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X. I was born right down the street from Vidor, Texas, and that's probably the worst place to be in this country if you're a person of color. It's where that black guy got dragged and killed. You always grew up not having things and no one respecting you. And whenever I got in trouble, I didn't get whupped but had to read something about Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X and do a book report. My mom was a big church person and really admired him. My mom was really into black history.
RM: If you met MLK, what would you say to him?
FM: Thank you. I appreciate everything you did. At the time, not too many people had the courage and the respect to do the things he did. He put everything on the line.
RM: In that case, who's the biggest punk?
FM: My father (Frank Middleton Sr.).
RM: How do you feel about him?
FM: My sisters have a relationship with him. But, for me, it's like you weren't here when I needed you most and now I'm a grown man I don't need anybody trying to tell me how they are sorry for not doing this and doing that. Sorry don't count in my book. If you did it, you meant to do it. He had from ages zero to 15 to get back with me and he didn't do it. We tried in my junior year in college because I was in the Pac-10 and he was starting to see me more on TV. He felt like it was time for him to straighten his ways. I could never do it. I look at him as someone who had put my mom in a bad situation. I'm not going to forgive him. I tried to, but I can't.
RM: Is the bitterness a bad thing?
FM: No. it drives me. Anything negative, you can turn it positive. One of the reasons I play football so well is because I want him to regret not being around to see me grow up. The last time we talked, it was after I got drafted. I called him and thanked him for not being around (for making me hungry). I told him I would appreciate it if we never speak again because his mission in life is complete. He got me to the point where I needed to be and there's no point in us talking. I told him thank you, you did everything you wanted to do in life and now it's my turn to do what I want to do in life and it doesn't include being with you. We haven't talked since. RM: What bothers you most?
FM: When people first meet me, it's like they have a negative feeling toward me and then when they find out I play football then they open up and it's a whole different world. Like you go in a nice store and they look at you and the first thing they do is quote the price. I just sat there and watched them talk to someone else and the price never came up. I'm not a suit-and-tie person. The other day I went into a jewelry store. It was my wife's birthday. I ran in there after practice, still in my shorts and stuff, the first thing the guy said was, "This is all our good stuff, but I've got some cheaper stuff over here." I just walked out. Then, like one of the guys recognized me and said, "That was Frank Middleton from the Bucs!" And now he wanted my business. It was too late.
RM: Michael Jackson?
FM: He got me through a lot of hard times. You can't hate Michael. When he was good, he was good. It's just lately you've got a sour taste in your mouth over him but when he was a kid, I don't care what nobody says, he was the man.
RM: Free agency?
FM: It's my time.
RM: Diet foods?
FM: I'm not too good on that. I don't believe in that. I'm from the country, anything deep-fried is good for me. I don't believe in Nutrasweet, aspartame, saccharin or anything like that. If it's not sugar, I don't want it.
RM: Packers defensive tackle Santana Dotson?
FM: I'll put Santana in the same line I put diet foods. We just don't agree.
FM: I'm actually enjoying practice now. A year ago, two years ago, it was a chore for me, but now, it's a way for me to get rid of all my frustrations.
RM: Marion Jones?
FM: She's the best right now. She's the type of woman I would like my daughter to grow up to be. She's earned a lot of respect. She's always so polite. After she won the gold medal and the dude was finished interviewing her, she said, "Thank you." I like nice people like that. I just think she was raised right. That's what I look for in a woman.
RM: Deion Sanders?
FM: Deion is Deion. I've never been a big Deion fan. I really don't like showboaters. You're supposed to be good because you're in the league. So some of the things he does, I really don't get into.
RM: Terrell Owens?
FM: Two years ago, when he caught the winning touchdown against Green Bay, he was one of the guys I would want to play with. But right now, he's one of the guys I wouldn't want to meet.
RM: Warren Sapp?
FM: He's a great guy, a great player. He plays hard, and could be one of the five best defensive tackles to ever play the game. But we just don't mix. The way he handles some things, I wasn't raised to handle things like that. And the way he talks, I wasn't raised to talk to people like that. I love everything about him on the field, but it's just that sometimes, some people don't carry themselves the way I think they should. We could talk and chit-chat but it won't go any further than that.
FM: Some people fool themselves. My biggest reason for not going to church here and some of the other places I've been is that you see a lot of fake religious people. More people want to tell you about religion but don't want to show you that they are religious. I'm the type of guy that will cuss, drink, smoke cigars, but, I live my life so straight, I don't consider myself in the wrong. Then, you've got other guys who are fronting. They always telling you, "Bless you, this and that," but behind closed doors they are (cussing) you out. Put it this way, if you take me for what I am, sit down and get to know me, I'll probably be the most religious guy on the team. But, I'm not going to be here saying, "God bless you." It's the way you live. The bum across the street who just got done smoking a quarter sack of weed can come in here and tell you everything he knows about God and the next thing you know, he's back smoking weed again."
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