Anthony Midget isn’t someone who would normally feel helpless. The former three-year starter at defensive back and first team All-Big East performer patrolled Virginia Tech’s secondary with confidence from 1996-1999. Midget ascended the coaching ranks, moving all the way up from a graduate assistant to the Texans’ secondary coach in a little more than a decade.
However, just over a year ago, that feeling of helplessness sunk in for the first time. Midget and the Texans just finished a preseason game in New Orleans against the Saints when Hurricane Harvey came charging through the city of Houston. The team was able to make it back to Dallas, but couldn’t find a safe route back to Houston with all of the damage and flooding. Midget was separated from his wife, Tresica, and three kids, Anaiya, Kaylin, and Jalen.
“We were stuck in Dallas and couldn’t get back,” Midget said. “My wife was stranded with the kids. Couldn’t go anywhere.
“We were all helpless. We were just trying to figure it out and find a way.”
Texans officials did everything to get the families of the players and coaches safe in hotels, but Midget’s family was out on the road during this time. Eventually they found refuge in a stranger’s home – the friend of one of Anaiya’s coaches.
“That’s how people reached out during this time,” Midget said. “To be able to help my family with someone they’ve never met before take shelter at their place because we were surrounded by water. In the city of Houston people come together in a time like that.
“To see all the damage on the way back was overwhelming. It was tough to just stay on the phone and make sure they were OK. In the end, I was able to get back and reunite with my family.”
Finally, one of the more frightening moments in Midget’s life came to a close, but his rise to becoming the Texans’ secondary coach had started long before.
Anthony Midget’s Virginia Tech Days
The Clewiston, Florida native arrived in Blacksburg in 1996. As a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed freshman, Anthony Midget looked up to the senior defensive backs in the room as he began his development as a college player.
“I had Torrian Gray, who I’m still real good friends with,” Midget said. “He was a senior when I was a freshman. Antonio Banks and those guys, they kind of took the freshmen under their wings. Torrian was a student of the game. He was really smart studying and he understood the details. I kind of learned from him just being a great leader.”
It was the guidance by Gray early on, along with the help from secondary coach Lorenzo Ward later on in his career, that transformed Midget into a ballhawk at cornerback and safety his senior season, leading the Hokies with five interceptions. Midget’s playmaking ability on defense helped direct Virginia Tech to its most memorable season in 1999.
“I remember us just going on that run,” Midget said. “The thing that sticks in my mind is the game we had at West Virginia when (Michael) Vick made the run and Shayne (Graham) had to go in and make that field goal to keep the streak alive. That just really sticks out. When you play in a season like that, you’re going to have games like that as far as being down and those guys executing the way they needed to execute. Us winning that clutch game in Morgantown was pretty big for us.”
Midget recalls the brotherhood he had with guys like Corey Moore and Ike Charlton. He remembers the thud of a Vick pass that had gone awry and hit a wall in practice, “sounding like a bomb went off” because of Vick’s arm strength. It’s still the 2000 Sugar Bowl that haunts Midget, despite intercepting a Chris Weinke pass on the biggest stage in the National Championship Game.
“It didn’t end the way we wanted it to,” Midget said. “It took me a lot of years before I even watched that game. We felt like we let a golden opportunity slip away from us. I just remember all the camaraderie we had with the guys. I remember every week coach (Frank) Beamer just kept telling us to focus on the next one because if you keep winning, they’re going to continue to get bigger and bigger.”
The 46-29 loss to Florida State that ended Midget’s career stung, but he still had many years in football ahead of him. After getting drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the fifth round in 2000, Midget lasted two years in the NFL before deciding to try his hand in coaching. Being coached by a Hall of Famer like Beamer allowed Midget to see the impact that he could have on young men too.
“Just seeing coach Beamer and the type of coach he was inspired me to be a coach because of the influence he had on all the guys,” Midget said. “He always had our best interest at heart. He was one of those coaches that players would love to play for. He’s just one of those guys who always tried to get the best out of his players and had our best interests at heart. That really stuck with me, the impact he had on me in my coaching and playing career.”
Midget got his start as an assistant coach at Lake Worth High School in Florida. It was the fate of one phone call at the right time back to Virginia Tech that helped launch Midget into the collegiate ranks as a graduate assistant at his alma mater in 2007.
“I just called back to inquire about possibly getting on the college level,” Midget said. “I asked those guys if they knew anybody, and they were like ‘We probably have a grad assistant job that’s available if you wanted to do that.’ And I said yes. It’s a deal where you’re breaking down film and you’re doing all the behind the scenes work. You’re running the scout team and drawing cards. That’s just part of helping you in the development of being a coach.”
Quickly making a name for himself, Midget landed a job at Georgia State, working up to defensive coordinator in 2012. He made another jump in 2013 to Penn State, where he was the safeties coach for Bill O’Brien. Following the Texans’ decision to fire Gary Kubiak in 2013, they needed a new head coach. Bill O’Brien was announced as the man for the job, and he chose to bring Midget along with him as the Texans’ assistant secondary coach. Right away, Midget got a taste of what it’s like to be a coach in the NFL in comparison to college.
“Coming out of high school, you’re dealing with guys who are developing and you’re really trying to get them to where they need to be,” Midget said. “There’s a lot of these guys in the NFL, you’re dealing with the best athletes in the world. You’re going against each week the Tom Bradys of the world, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees. These guys are future hall of famer guys that you’re going against. They’re smart, on top of things, great athletes. They understand that they’re at the top of their profession. It’s a job for them. You don’t have study hall. You don’t have class. This is a way for these guys to provide for their family. You’re dealing with guys who have kids that are the same age as mine. It’s a fun experience because we come in in the morning and all we’re doing is football. There’s no distractions and that’s the beauty.”
Heading into the 2018 season, Midget has even more responsibilities ahead of him. He was promoted to secondary coach for the Texans back in January. Since Midget came on staff in 2014, the Texans have held opponents to a 34.0 percent third down conversion rate (first in the NFL) and allowed just 223.1 passing yards per game (fourth in NFL).
“Last year when I was the assistant coach, I was really mainly focused on the field with the safeties,” Midget said. “This year I’m overseeing the entire group. I do have an assistant that’s working with me and helping me out. It’s just my responsibility to run the room every meeting and as far as game planning wise and all of that with the defense. It’s been great. I have a great group of guys – guys that enjoy coming to work and being able to compete every day. That’s what makes this job so rewarding because of the guys I get to come to work with every day.”
Midget’s seen the peaks and valleys in life. He’s been a part of a team that made the run to the National Championship Game, only to end in disappointment. He’s climbed the ladder as a coach in the NFL, been directly involved in a devastating natural disaster, and witnessed the outpouring of support following the hurricane. Midget has taken the journey one step at a time, and the journey isn’t over yet.
“My ultimate goal is to be a head coach, whether that’s the NFL or college,” Midget said. “I’m just enjoying the opportunity I have now and focused on doing my best job to get these guys playing the best that I can this year. All that will take care of itself in due time.”