Tom Compton has a genuine and confident pride in who he is and where he's from.
Growing up in Minnesota, the Redskins' offensive tackle was active in all things sports. Whether it was baseball, basketball, football, track and field or wrestling – you name it, he's tried it.
"I tried everything, for sure," Compton said. "Once I realized that I wasn't good at one or wasn't having fun with it, I'd find one that I was better at."
Football, however, was the one sport that stuck with Compton.
He started for two years on the offensive line at Rosemount High School and was an integral part of teams that reached the sectional championship and a Minnesota State Semifinal berth.
In 2007, Compton headed for Division 1-AA South Dakota University, home of the Coyotes. After redshirting as a freshman, he suited up as a starter on the offensive line in 2008.
Over the next four seasons, he started all 43 games for the Coyotes. As a junior, he received the team's Most Valuable Lineman Award and was an All-Great West Conference first-team selection, a bump up from being named honorable mention All- GWC his sophomore season.
"It's definitely a smaller school, but I had a blast there," Compton said. "I loved all the people that were there, teammates and stuff, so I had a great time there."
Coming from a smaller school, the transition to the NFL can be difficult. Only a handful of small-school athletes – starting with Division 1-AA and on down – have prospered in their NFL careers. But Compton has been able to be one of those select few, which also includes former Redskins linebacker London Fletcher – who attended Division III John Carroll University – and wide receiver Pierre Garçon – who attended Division III Mount Union.
"It's cool to come from that and had to work your way up from it," said Compton, who made his NFL debut against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1 of the 2013 season. "I remember making that jump was very hard for me. I'm still proud of coming from there. It's just part of who I am."
As Compton continues to establish himself along the Redskins' offensive line, he wants to continue to reach out to the local community.
While at South Dakota, he was an active member of the community, participating in Thanksgiving food drives and wrapping presents for elementary school kids, among other activities. Over the offseason with the Redskins, Compton participated in a back-to-school shopping event, where he was given a reminder of just how much of an impact he can have on the community as an NFL player.
"We did the back to school thing and then I went back to Target to shop on my own, and one of the workers was like, 'That was great that you guys did that,' and he was really happy about it," Compton said. "It affects more people than you know."
Compton's journey to the NFL is a road many travel, but few complete. Hailing from a lesser-known school, not many players get the opportunities that he's earned with the Redskins.
When asked about any one player in particular that he looked to as a role model growing up, Compton provided an answer that perfectly describes his personality: himself.
"I never really had one guy that I aspired to be or anything," Compton said. "I always just tried to be my own guy. I guess there are certain things you can take from different people, but I never wanted to be like someone else. I always wanted to be my own guy."