Thursday, May 18, 2017

Redskins' Will Compton gives back in Bonne Terre

Washington Redskins linebacker Will Compton sacks Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott during a game last November in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo)

By Jim Thomas
May 18, 2017

BONNE TERRE, MO. • They ran around huge truck tires, hopped over tackling dummies, fell on fumbles, caught passes — just about everything you’d expect at a youth football camp.

The guest instructors, five of them at least, were members of the Washington Redskins, which seemed strange here in the middle of the Missouri Lead Belt on the day before Mother’s Day. Until, that is, you looked at the T-shirts worn by the 130 campers who ranged in age from third grade through eighth grade:

“Create Your Own Destiny. Will Compton Football Camp.”

Undrafted out of Nebraska in 2013, Compton started most of the past two seasons at middle linebacker for Washington. He was a team captain last season, registering a career-high 125 tackles during a breakout campaign.

As such, he’s the headliner in Bonne Terre’s first family of sports.

It’s basically unanimous in the Compton household that most of the family’s athletic DNA comes from Mom. Kathey Compton starred in volleyball, softball, and track in high school, growing up in tiny Gower near St. Joseph on the western side of the state. She went on to play college volleyball at Missouri Western.

Kathey’s husband, Bill, was an amateur body builder who once owned a gym in nearby Park Hills that served as the family business.

Wyatt, the youngest of their three sons, played a year of college football at Southeast Missouri State and now is a student assistant coach at Colorado Mesa University.
Of course, there’s oldest son Will, who’s on the verge of big things with Washington.

But the star of the family growing up was middle son Cody, a gifted wrestler.

“When Cody was 5, he placed fifth in a national tournament in wrestling,” Kathey said. “So we traveled all over the country with him. He wrestled every year for the Missouri dual team and the national team. I mean, he was really good.”

Cody won a state wrestling title at North County Desloge High as a senior. At senior nationals that year, he made a deal with Mom and Dad. If he finished first at nationals, he could get a tattoo. Kathey was adamantly against the idea of a tattoo, but since you had to be a state champion just to qualify for the tournament, she thought it was a safe bet in such a stacked field of competitors.

Cody finished first, and there’s a tattoo of — surprise — a wrestler on his back.

“Cody was the one that kind of was recruited young, and everybody had their eye on,” Kathey said. “It was like, ‘Oh, his brother plays football, too. Isn’t that nice.’

But that all started to change one summer weekend about 10 years ago. Bill was with Cody, who was wrestling for the Missouri National team at an event in Kansas.

Kathey went with Will to Purdue for a Nike football camp for college prospects. She was surprised, maybe a little stunned, at the speed and athletic ability of the other campers. So much so that when her husband called to check on how things were going, she replied, “I think we just wasted a six-hour drive.”

Well, imagine how she felt when Will was named MVP of the camp.

“I’m not kidding, as soon as we got to the car (to drive home), there were like five coaches on the phone that wanted to talk to Will about coming to school,” she said. “It was the craziest thing we had ever experienced in our lives. It was literally like overnight.”

Until that point, Will was getting looks from smaller Division I programs. After the Nike camp, the likes of Missouri, Illinois, Notre Dame and Nebraska got in on the act.

It was all but understood that whoever got Will for football would also get Cody — one year younger — as a wrestler. It ended up being Nebraska where Will had a very good career for the Cornhuskers in football.

Cody, meanwhile, was slowed by multiple concussions and a torn labrum. He finished 32-8 for the Huskers in a shortened college career and now is an assistant wrestling coach at Farmington High who spends his summers working camps for Purler Wrestling all over the country.

No one’s prouder of Will’s success than Cody.

“What really set him apart from everybody else was just how intelligent he was on the field,” Cody said. “For me, looking at him and all the success he’s had, it was kind of expected.

“He’s always worked hard and did all the right things. He took off about a year and a half ago. Washington gave him his opportunity and he ran with it, and he hasn’t looked back since. He’s been doing great.”

Washington had its rookie minicamp last weekend, meaning Will was free to come back home for his annual football camp. He brought along four teammates to help — defensive end Trent Murphy, nose tackle Kedric Golston and linebackers Houston Bates and Martrell Spaight.

Lavonte David, the Pro Bowl linebacker for Tampa Bay and a former Nebraska teammate, has worked the camp in the past.

But there was also a hometown feel when it came to the other instructors and volunteers, such as Will’s little league coach, Terry Cole.

“My first year when I got into the (NFL) I was on practice squad and stuff,” Will said. “But a goal of mine I had within a year of being in the league, I wanted to make a point to give back to my community in a way that I can give them things I learned, and just influence the youth. I wanted to hold a football camp.”

Will comes across as a serious type, and it doesn’t take much imagination to see how that might translate into an intense type on the football field.

He was all over the place Saturday, encouraging the youngsters in his raspy voice, posing for pictures, shaking hands with old friends, even making sure the instructors had water on a warm day.

Kathey pretty much supervised the whole thing, down to helping hand out pizza and snacks to the campers in the high school gym afterward. Cody was there all day, and Bill dropped in to see how things were going.

“My mom, as you saw her working around, she’s kind of the wonder woman behind all of it,” Will said. “She makes all of it go and work.”

Will likes coming home whenever he can. He bought a home in Bonne Terre just six blocks from his parents. Like the entire town, he lives over the tunnels and shafts of the old lead mine.

“If we have an earthquake, we’re doomed,” Kathey laughed.

Whether it’s Hub’s Pub and Grill, the Shamrock Restaurant and Lounge, or the Space Museum, basically everyone in the town of 6,800 knows the Compton family, especially Bonne Terre’s favorite son. You know, the NFL linebacker.

“Everybody definitely knows us, and everybody for sure knows Will,” Cody says. “It’s always a hassle going to WalMart when Will’s in town.”

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