Ex-Packers RB Middleton dies at 59

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Green Bay Packers running back Terdell Middleton is chased by Kansas City Chiefs linebackers Jimbo Elrod (54) and Dave Rozumek (55), defensive end Art Still (67) and linebacker Tom Howard (52) during a preseason game at Lambeau Field on Aug. 5, 1978. The Packers lost 17-14.

Terdell Middleton, a 1,000-yard rusher for the Green Bay Packers in 1978, died Friday in his hometown of Memphis. He was 59.

The St. Louis Cardinals drafted Middleton out of Memphis State in the third round of the 1977 NFL draft. However, Packers coach and general manager Bart Starr thought so highly of him that he traded Perry Smith, a two-year starter at cornerback, to get Middleton on the day after the draft.

The 6-foot, 195-pound Middleton saw only spot duty during his rookie season.

But in 1978, he had 284 carries for 1,116 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also caught 34 passes for 332 yards and a touchdown. He was the Packers' leading scorer with 72 points that season and was voted to the Pro Bowl.

After Middleton's breakout season, the Packers didn't have another 1,000-yard rusher for 17 years, until Edgar Bennett ran for 1,067 yards in 1995.

Middleton again led the Packers in rushing in 1979, but had only 131 carries for 495 yards and two touchdowns, his playing time limited by a separated shoulder. After that, he was mostly a backup, starting only three of 27 games in 1980 and 1981.

He finished his NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, getting only two carries in nine games in 1982 and 1983. He played briefly with the USFL's Memphis Showboats in 1984, then retired.

Middleton was a firefighter after retiring from football.

No cause of death was available.

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