From undrafted practice squad member to a cemented starter, Will Compton has had quite the journey over the last few seasons. It's only the beginning of what he hopes is a long career.
It was early into his rookie season in 2013, and Will Compton, an undrafted free agent out of Nebraska, wasn't sure he was going to make it in the league, let alone with the Washington Redskins.
The odds were already stacked against him because he wasn't selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, but then he suffered a torn hamstring.
"First I thought it was a strain, but then find out a year later that I tore the top of my hamstring," Compton said. "I remember I could barely walk and I basically had the trainers duct tape me up because as an undrafted guy, you can't afford to miss any time -- you just don't have any luxury like that."
Recalling the injury meant some difficult memories surfacing as well.
"I remember being in some down, dark places," Compton said. "A buddy came to visit, him and his wife, I remember telling him when I went to visit his hotel, 'Man, to be honest, I don't care if this is my only year. This is just not fun to me and it's just so much of a business and I don't know if I'll get an opportunity.' I was just down that I wasn't able to perform at my best because I was hurt."
But through individual growth, showing he's capable of performing at the NFL level in replacement of injured starters, Compton's reps kept increasing as time went on.
That culminated with the best possible news two weeks ago for Compton.
"I think Will Compton has cemented a role as a starter on this football team based on his play," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden told reporters.
Feeling more at homeWhile Compton would eventually get called up to the active roster for the 2013 regular season finale against the New York Giants -- a gratifying moment knowing his hard work all season on the practice squad had paid off -- it wasn't until early in his second season when he felt more comfortable with the Redskins.
"I would say it started to feel fun again in OTAs and training camp in my second year, because I had to do rookie minicamp again a second time around because I didn't have a credited season," Compton said. "So I had to do rookie minicamp, which I was bitter about. But I got a lot of good 1-on-1 work with KO [linebacker coach Kirk Olivadotti] and Haz [Jim Haslett]."
A countdown of the Top 10 images of Redskins linebacker Will Compton during the 2014 season.
Those reps were key for Compton, as Olivadotti had just returned to the Redskins after a three-year stint as the University of Georgia's linebackers coach.
"KO was new, so it was kind of my first time working with him. We didn't draft anybody, so he basically just got to work with me and I think they saw me being able to take control as far as making calls, checks, seeing things, and just being on top of things that you like to see somebody on top of."
Having veteran supportThere are a lot of fantastic undrafted-to-superstar stories in the NFL, and during his rookie season, Compton learned from someone who took that very path: London Fletcher.
Fletcher was putting the finishing touches on a historic 16-year career, as he played in 256 consecutive games, starting in 215 of them.
In his NFL-record 256th consecutive, and final appearance, Compton made his NFL debut.
"That's a dude who's climbed from the complete bottom and so of course I asked about it," Compton said. "He's somebody who prepares well. He's very smart- high IQ of the game. Somebody's brain I picked all the time."
Compton said he learned from Fletcher "you're just not a draft pick, so you're not going to have the luxuries of cop-outs and things like that."
"If anything goes wrong it's like 'Why do we have an undrafted guy? We must not have enough talent and whatever,'" Compton said.
Blocking out the noiseWhile high draft picks are under the microscope early in their careers as fans eagerly await to see how quickly they can adjust to the NFL, undrafted players are, understandably so, often forgotten about.
It's only until they are playing that attention is placed on them, sometimes more so than someone who heard their name called during the draft.
Compton's heard the negative talk about him whenever a bad play is made -- questions like why is an undrafted player getting so much time -- but he doesn't let it negatively affect him.
He's been the quarterback in the middle of the Redskins' defense, collecting 97 total tackles -- second-best on the team to Dashon Goldson's 117 -- and has four pass deflections and a fumble recovery.
"If at any point anybody buys into negativity that people say, it's going to hinder their performance and I wouldn't still be here if I bought into what people said," Compton said. "I make it fun because I'm at a place now where I have the opportunity. I've been through so much, so there's really nothing anybody can say to me that's going to make me feel down, because I've earned every bit. Everybody earns every bit of where they get to. I fully believe that. Nobody's going to knock me off from where I've climbed to at this point."