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Richlands alum Compton mans line as SW Virginia's best

Kevin Mays • May 3, 2020 at 2:30 PM

Mike Compton had a stellar NFL career that included two Super Bowl championships and an outstanding collegiate run that concluded with an All-America senior season.

Before that, however, Compton was an all-star player at Richlands.

The 1989 graduate was selected as the best high school football lineman in far Southwest Virginia history, according to an informal social media poll conducted over the last week. Over 200 votes were cast on social media sites during the week.

“That’s a great honor,” Compton said. “It’s a great honor to be considered and to be named because there’s been a lot of great offensive and defensive linemen in Southwest Virginia over the years.”

Compton also played baseball and wrestled at Richlands, but football was his future. And two men made a huge difference in making his future in football the right path.

During his senior year in high school, Compton, a top NCAA Division I prospect, found himself benched on offense.

“My head coach, Billy Haun, who is now the executive director of the VHSL, and Bruce Sizemore, my offensive line coach, felt like I wasn’t performing up to my potential on the offensive side of the ball and they told me I would not be starting on offense because I wasn’t giving them enough on offense,” Compton recalled. “We were playing Virginia High that week and throughout the week I played offense on the scout team. I worked hard that week on the scout team. Before the game that night they told me I was going to play both ways and start on offense, but that I had to continue playing hard and working hard.

“That conversation with those two men before the game really had a resounding effect on me. From that point on, I tried to play as hard as I could on every play.”

Compton’s efforts earned him a spot on the roster at West Virginia. The center started three years for the Mountaineers, twice being named All-Big East. He was a consensus All-America pick in 1992.

He was inducted into the West Virginia Hall of Fame in 2005.

Again, two coaches — this time Don Nehlen and his offensive line coach, the late Mike Jacobs — who helped inspire him.

“He is 99.9% of the reason that I succeeded at being a college offensive lineman,” Compton said of Jacobs. “He mentored me and taught me how to play the game from a cerebral point of view and not just the I’m going to run over you game.”

Compton was drafted by Detroit and played eight years for the Lions before spending three years with the New England Patriots where he was part of two Super Bowl championship teams in 2001 and 2003.

He retired from the NFL in 2005 after playing his final season in Jacksonville.

Since then, Compton has been in the business of coaching, having worked as the offensive line coach at Virginia-Wise since 2016.

Prior to UVA Wise, Compton had similar stints at Concord, Fairmont State and Bluefield.

He also was the offensive line coach in the high school ranks at Tazewell and was Patrick Henry’s coach for three years.

OTHER TOP NAMES

Here’s a look at the other top vote-getters:

• Chad Beasley, Gate City — Beasley was the top vote-getter among defensive linemen. The 1997 graduate played collegiately at Virginia Tech, where he played in the NCAA national title game against Florida State in 1999. After being drafted by Minnesota in 2002, Beasley moved to offensive side of the ball. Cleveland picked him up four weeks into his rookie season, and he played three seasons for the Browns.

• Matt McGlothlin, Richlands — McGlothlin went from Richlands to Knoxville, where he started on the Vols’ defensive line after initially making the team as a walk-on. He briefly was on the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster and also played professionally for the Orlando Predators in the Arena League. He died last year at age 36.

• Steve Knight, Abingdon — Knight was a top offensive lineman for the Falcons in the late 1970s. He played at Tennessee and signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 1984. A year later, he was in San Diego before going to Indianapolis in 1987 where he played until 1990. The multitalented Knight has been in law enforcement the last 30 years. He also is a wedding disc jockey and has been in Christian evangelism for 19 years.

• Josh Warren, Powell Valley — The top tight end in the selections, Warren graduated in 1999 and went on to play for Wake Forest.

• Dean Herman, J.J. Kelly — Herman graduated a year before J.J. Kelly won its only state championship in football, but he was on the 1981 national championship team at Clemson as a defensive lineman.

• Tom Turner, Appalachia — Perhaps known better as a coach, Turner was a standout football and basketball player for the Bulldogs. He played on the first of the school’s six state football championship teams in 1971 and was a member of the 1972 basketball state title team. Turner coached his alma mater for several years, leading Appalachia to five state titles, three state runner-up finishes and 11 Region D titles. He died in 2006.

• Luke Owens, Grundy — Owens, now Wise Central’s football coach, was a dual-sport star at Grundy. In addition to being a top lineman, Owens won three VHSL Class AA wrestling championships in the 275-pound class. He also owns a national record in the division for the fastest pin at four seconds. Owens played football at Virginia Tech, where he started on the offensive line for two seasons.

• James Mitchell, Union — Mitchell played tight end for most of his career with the Bears, although he moved to quarterback for several games his senior season because of injuries to other players. A four-time all-state player at Union, Mitchell is completing his sophomore season at Virginia Tech. Over his first two seasons, he hauled in 21 catches for 361 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for four touchdowns.

MORE NOTABLES

Others receiving a significant number of votes were Gate City’s Ricky Shoemaker, Bobby Seaver, Kevin Smith and Mark Thompson; J.I. Burton’s Peyton Stallard, Savon Wadsworth and Matthew Jones; Powell Valley’s Shea Chapman, Jerry Shuler, Todd Meade, Jason Strong, Josh Spurlock and Roger Mullins; Rye Cove’s Rex Carter and Joe Carter; Appalachia’s Luke Marsingill; Clintwood’s Yogi Mooney; Richlands’ Josh Hess; and Twin Valley’s Matthew Baldwin.

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