Earning a starting linebacker spot after an uphill battle that started with humble beginnings, Will Compton is providing younger players an example of what perseverance can do.
It wasn't that long ago that Will Compton was the undrafted free agent trying to hang on in the NFL any way possible, constantly seeking advice from established veterans like London Fletcher, Ryan Kerrigan and Perry Riley Jr. while trying to take the most of very limited practice time.
Now, entering just his fourth season with the Washington Redskins, Compton – who is expected to start this season – is filling the role of veteran others can lean on.
"This year I have rookies that come talk to me," Compton said. "It's definitely a grind – big-time mentally. There were some days my first year where I was very down in the dumps on myself or just on the situation. It's like, 'Dang, you just want an opportunity.' It's the biggest uphill climb ever. You start at the bottom as fourth-string – not even on special teams sometimes – so you've got to get after it. You have very few and limited reps and chances to show your stuff. My advice – and something that I worked on as a rookie – was just keeping an optimistic and positive mindset because you can't worry about the results of everything."
Compton has not only risen to the starting lineup, but he's the guy that a talented defensive unit follows on the field.
Not shy to be vocal, Compton has showcased that leadership trait throughout training camp, countering Kirk Cousins offensive calls with louder defensive signals.
"It's a lot of fun when we win the down," Compton said. "If we would have gotten caught in all that communication, it would have been on me. So it's very important to – again – be loud, be fast, trust what you're seeing and don't second guess yourself. When you're about to make a call just be as loud as you can. But it's a lot of fun when you have the offense and defense going back and forth like that."
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden believes that his ability as a player, and as a leader that can rally the troops, really doesn't fully come out until "you actually put him in the games."
Check out behind the scenes images from Linebacker, Will Compton's 2016 Redskins Photo Shoot.
"Once he gets into the games, he communicates and he anticipates plays, he gets in the passing windows, he's all over the place," Gruden said. "And that's what he is. He's just a hard-playing, smart football player. That inside linebacker position is crucial. You've got to be smart and instinctive, and he's both of those."
Compton replaced an injured Keenan Robinson in the starting lineup last season starting with the Redskins' 47-14 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 15.
The Nebraska product would play well alongside Riley Jr. before he went down with a foot injury. Mason Foster took Riley Jr.'s spot, unexpectedly performing well down the stretch.
While Foster would work with the first-team defense during all of OTAs, a healthy Riley Jr. has returned to the field.
Regardless of who ultimately wins the starting job, Compton sees both being contributors for the Redskins this season.
"They are similar players. Both are very athletic, both can thump," Compton said. "They can get downhill quick and they are easy to communicate with. I don't really have… when somebody else comes in, there is really no real downfall of any of them. When somebody comes in, I've played with both of them. We both communicate well, all of us communicate well. They could probably even play the Mike and play together and communicate well. But, they're both very good players, both very physical. Perry, he can move around pretty well. For Perry, right now, it's getting that rust off and getting back and seeing all the formations, playing fast, trusting his instincts, that sort of thing."