Will Compton went undrafted out of Nebraska in 2013 and made his debut in the NFL late that season when he appeared in one game with the Washington Redskins. On the 53-man roster the last two seasons, Compton has used other players’ injuries to prove his worth as a starter.
Q: Did you always think you could be in the NFL?
A: “Ever since I was young I did always have the dream of playing in the NFL. I always said I was going to. Back then, I always said I was going to be the next Walter Payton, or the quarterback/running back and the guy who scored.
“My Dad said I was a huge fan of Jim Kelly for some reason. I don’t remember because I was so young. I had the helmet Thurman Thomas had. I always wanted to be ‘Sweetness’ Walter Payton.
“It sucks to say right now, I grew up a Dallas fan because my Dad was a huge Cowboys fan. It was funny when I got picked up here.”
Q: Wait, you play for the Redskins and yet grew up a Cowboys fan?
A: “It’s really cool because obviously I’m a Redskin now. I want to beat Dallas but It’s really cool when we beat Dallas and it will be cool to be there going there at the end of this season because I was a huge fan and being out there and soaking in that you are playing against your team [growing up], you are playing in the NFL and to see guys you grew up watching. It’s always cool seeing ‘Moose’ [Darryl Johnston] on the sidelines, but I haven’t gone up to him yet, because I haven’t figured out what I want to say to him. It’s always cool to see Troy Aikman. It’s awesome.”
Q: Did you pattern your game after anyone?
A: “The whole modeling part is hard because you have to come into your own, because you have use your own strengths and identify your own weaknesses and things like that. I’m sure like every linebacker growing up, loving Ray Lewis, who has more of an indirect way on my life as far as the psychology and the leadership away from football being what made him so great in football around his teammates. I’m really big into that mind, psychology, inspirational type stuff. Ray is somebody I always liked to listen to. Ray was the big one growing up, especially in high school and college.”
Q: Could you do the Ray Lewis pregame dance and if you ever had a pick six, would you do it?
A: “Every now and then I break that out in my own house. … Guys want me to do other stuff, but yeah, it’s always fun watching Ray.”
Q: What impact have you had on this Redskins’ locker room?
A: “You would have to ask them. I don’t want to sit here and toot my own horn. I’m sure [Jason Hatcher] and [Kedric Golston] would tell you I got them wearing the visors and stuff at practice. I do make a conscious effort to bring energy every day. Have fun, keep stuff light, all of that stuff.”
Q: How would you describe what Nebraska meant to you?
A: “It meant a lot. Initially I committed to [Redskins offensive line coach Bill] Callahan and they got fired and I re-committed to Bo [Pelini], but that was probably the best decision I ever made, going to the University of Nebraska. The best part about it was playing for Bo Pelini and that staff. I can’t say enough good things about Coach Bo and all those guys. I truly believe I wouldn’t be here without them and their knowledge. I have a strong opinion on Bo is one of the best minds in football, especially defensively. He and that staff get a lot of credit for things that people are starting to see. That comes from playing for Bo and sitting with [former NFL linebacker] Barrett Rudd.”
Q: What fuels you?
A: “That’s a good question. I’m very big on your purpose driving you. I feel like I am always searching for my purpose is. I’m always wondering what that is. I’m big in my faith. I try to keep God No. 1 in my life. I feel like everybody has a purpose. For me, I just want to be an example of what I talk about like speaking and what I preach about when I speak to schools and companies during the off-season.
“I have a strong message of what comes from a Ray Lewis, a Tony Robbins, a Will Smith. I really buy into the psychology of everything. How you are in control of your destiny. You can always control the results. You can always control your attitude and effort every day.
“Say I reach over and take a swing at you — you can always control and have a grip on your mind. Your mind is the most powerful weapon you have. That answer I don’t fully know or understand, I just know I want to be an example of what I believe in. I want to influence people. People that are young. Where I come from [Bonne Terre, Missouri], I’m the only NFL guy to come from there. I’m conscious. I want to be an example for these kids and want people to look up and say, ‘He did it,’ so they say, ‘Maybe I can do it.’ “
Q: The book on you is a smart, instinctual player with a high football IQ who lacks typical physical characteristics. How would you describe yourself?
A: “I would describe myself in all those ways. A guy who knows the game and a physical player. If you would look at everybody, I’m probably more of a smaller inside guy but in my mind, I sell out a lot. I try to be violent and beat guys to spots. I’m very quick triggered and that is due to my preparation. I tell myself and I think I’m one of the smartest guys in the game. I take a lot of pride in the details and always studying. Bo has a saying, ‘If you ever feel like you’ve made it or there’s nothing else you can learn or teach others, you should hang it up.’ I’m always trying to pick guys brains and all that stuff.
“There’s a ceiling when it comes to genetics. I’m a huge believer in the mind. I feel like anticipation is a key to the success of the game and I feel that’s where I thrive. Being able to anticipate, prepare and live in the details of the game.”
Q: How much has some of the disrespect of not being drafted helped you?
A: “I take a lot of pride. I really do. It would be dumb for me to say I don’t and that I’m not conscious about what has been said about me in the past. Yes, it definitely fuels me. I would say that’s a huge area where I’ve grown. When I was in college, stuff would affect me as far as what was said. A coach or something. I’m a very big analytical person.
“By listening to Tony Robbins, the Ray Lewises, Jim Rome, those type of guys — you are able to control your emotions. That’s what fuels me. I’m a product of what I believe in and if you buy in to all the things surrounding here that’s negative — you could just as easily become that. That’s why I say you are never as good as they say you are. That’s when teams get humbled. If you’re bad, that’s why you stay bad because you believe in all these things. So, yeah, that’s very much a chip on my shoulder. To me, it’s a better story now.
“I was a very salty individual especially when I wasn’t drafted or I didn’t get called up when Bryan Kehl went down. All of that stuff, every day, 24/7. It’s a better story now. I wouldn’t change a thing now. I’m able to live as an example of what I believe.”
Q: Who has been influential to you that is here, coaches or player?
A: “There’s several guys and I don’t want to leave anybody out. [Redskins linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti] has been a big one because he’s been a constant these last couple of years. [Former defensive coordinator Jim Haslett] and [former defensive backs coach Raheem] Morris — you just feel when people believe in you. Coach Morris, when I didn’t get called up my rookie year was like, ‘Comp, you gotta stay ready. Your time is going to come.’ K.O. has been the biggest constant and saw it early than others and what I was capable of and pushed to take more of a chance on me. I can’t say enough good things about K.O. I never trust him just because he’s an NFL coach. He always tells me [to] never trust him and I never will. I always tell him, ‘I never will and you better not trust me.’
“As far as players, Logan Paulsen was one of the guys I latched on to because of the energy and effort every day. Reed Doughty when he was here. Recently, Kedric Golston, but ‘Uncle Ked’ is the guy. Adam Hayward has had a big influence on me. Indirectly, Ryan [Kerrigan] is not outspoken, but Ryan’s example every single day, I notice it. I take in their advice. As for Ryan, I just try to keep my level up to his. When I want to feel sorry for myself, I just think about Ryan or Logan Paulsen — those guys who bring their lunch bucket every day and understand that I need to get up to that level.”
Q: What else do you do away from the facility?
A: “I have a screen printing business back home. It’s called ‘M. Tee’s Apparel,’ but I’m not as involved in that during the season. I like to read and play video games. When we get in the off-season, I like to speak. I have a few things lined up. I’ve come to enjoy speaking and the controlling the mind and that kind of factor on your daily routine, creating habits. Yeah, I like to speak. Really, just hang out and seeing my family and friends. It’s awesome being an NFL player in the sense that you get a few months off every year and I like to soak that in.”
Q: We share a birthday. You were born on September 19th. What’s the best thing about being a Virgo?’
A: “I like it. I like reading the horoscope and thinking, ‘Damn, that’s kind of true.’ I’m like, ‘Wow, that is me,’ but yeah, I enjoy it. My youngest brother was born in early September. We take pride in being September guys.”