The Redskins' inside linebacker and defensive captain explains his fascination with sports psychology, reflects on his days at Nebraska and the moment he gained confidence in the NFL.
How did you celebrate your birthday the other week?
Didn't do much. I came here to watch the film again, recovered, ordered some Indian food, an egg roll and sushi. Sat on my couch.
Are all birthdays like that for you now since being in the NFL?
Yeah, I'm sure if it was after a win maybe, a day in the offseason, it would be different. But I didn't really care to do anything. I cared more about thinking about our loss [to the Cowboys] and what we could do and then recovery.
It was tough timing.
Yeah, tough timing. I think either way, it's always hard the day after a game. You just want to recover. For me, it's usually eating.
Did Mason Foster get you anything? **
He did not. It was kind of disappointing. But Houston [Bates] got me something. He got me the Yeti Koozie and got it with my name and number on it. So that was pretty cool.
You seem to have a lot of friends in this locker room. How nice is it to have strong relationships with teammates as a player?
I think it helps a lot because you build chemistry with everybody. I think it's always good when somebody comes in, you bring good energy, you bring good enthusiasm. Outside of here once you get into the film room, the meeting room, they know your work ethic, I know their work ethic. We know how to talk to each other.
It makes it easier after a loss I'm sure.
Are you and Mason still "Beavis and Butthead" or do you want a new nickname?
The whole "Beavis and Butthead," that usually comes from others, so I guess what others have for us we're always open to new ideas.
The Wolfpack is too broad.
Yeah, well we've got to start playing like the wolfpack first.
Some of your closest friends on the team such as Adam Hayward and Jason Hatcher have also recently left. How have you dealt with their exits personally?
Man, it sucks. What sucks is knowing the realities of the business. You can't hold onto the moments forever. You can hold onto your friendships, but not the daily grind, that mentorship and those sorts of things. You can't just hold onto that. You can't be in that moment forever, knowing it's going to end at some point. I still keep in touch a lot with [Hayward], I keep in touch with [Hatcher] every now and then.
Did you get to see Hatcher at the season opener at all?
Yeah, it was awesome. Hatch is such a good person, a good dude to have around. [Kedric Golston], that's a big loss.
What's special about Golston compared to the others?
He's got a lot of knowledge, wisdom, experience, very even-keeled, very slow to speak, very thoughtful, very pensive in his process about things. He's always got a good attitude, no matter how much of a grind it is. He's got a quote or something he can feed you to give you the reality of the situation on how you can look at things, so he's just somebody who has a lot of experience in a lot of different areas of life. Big man in his faith. Got a great family, he was just one of the biggest leaders on the team. He gave the pregame talks in the locker room and all that. He's awesome.
Check out behind the scenes images from Linebacker, Will Compton's 2016 Redskins Photo Shoot.
It seems like you're drawn to that stuff with the speaking engagements you do in the offseason. Has that always been something you've been attracted to?**
Yeah, for sure, I'm always into that, trying to help people or give something to people that I've learned through my trials and tribulations. I'm always into the personal development side of things. It's something that's truly interesting to me and Ked is someone who's about that and he's a great example of adversity in overcoming things. That's what draws me to Uncle Ked, too.
Does it help that you have, or get, to be a vocal leader at linebacker?
Yeah, I think it definitely helps out for sure, because everybody leads in their own way. I have my way of doing it. You never want to get too much out of your personality to try to bark or lead or anything without being about what you talk about. I like to be about things first before I speak on it.
Did you feel like you could do those things when you first got in the league?
I'm very vocal in my confidence as far as knowing what situation defense we're in. I don't know about talking up to guys and things like that. Belonging on the field came first, and then all that other stuff comes after that as far as building relationships with everybody. But being voted captain that's a huge honor now, so that's something I'm able to start speaking up on things that I think are important.
I saw you suggested a Tony Robbins book to a Twitter follower in the offseason. Is he a big motivator?
Tony Robbins is my go-to as far as personal development and all that type of stuff, figuring out your purpose. I love Tony Robbins, he's my No. 1.
How did you latch onto his work and message?
There was that Eric Thomas speech a long time ago. The "you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe" story about a kid whose mentor takes him and holds him under water and basically almost drowns him and says, "when you want to succeed as badly as you want to breathe, that's when everything will start coming together." I remember clinging onto that stuff, Ray Lewis stuff, motivational stuff, and then I would type in things on YouTube and started to come across Tony Robbins and from that point on I could just sit and watch all of his stuff. I was more into that stuff because it's more about your psychology than it is about feeling pumped or motivated. I was drawn to that whole using your brain to your advantage compared to a disadvantage.
Do you have time to read books like that during the season?
I guess I do, but I don't. I just get exhausted when I get home. I put in so much time with studying. When I'm home I just like to relax.
Every year you've tweeted a photo going to this workout facility that looks like the "Batcave." Where is this place?
It's actually located in St. Louis. The headquarters is Metabolic Meals, it's a place where I get my meal-delivery service. The guy there is also a strength and conditioning coach, Jason Barber, so I use him, that's who I train with. I'll drive there a couple times a week for the lower body and that's where I work out. It's like an underground trucking facility where you drive underground.
What do you get out of being back close to your hometown in Bonne Terre, Mo., and especially speaking to younger kids in school there?
You see that look in their eyes like you know I'm saying something that's marinating with them, at least for the moment with them anyway. We don't tell kids something they haven't heard from their parents or people that want them to succeed. But the fact that they're hearing it from me and think that I'm some NFL guy who was where they were. I think gives them a little bit of hope where they can make some kind of difference in their life, because I just don't sit there and talk about football, I talk about life and using the whole personal development examples as far as explaining the psychology of everything and how you can overcome whatever you feel like is going on in your head. When they tell me that stuff really resonated with them, that's what I get most out of it.
What were you like as a kid?
I was someone who always loved football, loved sports, loved competition and was motivated by wanting to be an NFL player. I was always somebody willing to figure out what I can do to try to continue to get to another level. I knew guys didn't get recruited that much where I was, and I came across Rivals, and I remember figuring out ways I could be on Rivals, get noticed or identified, and try to do workouts, extra stuff. I was always someone who was very in tune with trying to figure out ways to get better. I was always a hard worker and always willing to listen to someone who's been there, done that.
What age did that mentality kick in?
I guess you'd have to say high school. I was very motivated to become a football player from second grade on, so I was always somebody playing out in the yard with myself whenever I could.
Were your mom and dad big helpers?
Oh yeah, they were big supporters, paying for camps. I remember going to Notre Dame camps, that's where I wanted to go at first. High school was when I realized I'm trying to do something, I'm trying to get out of here, trying to get a scholarship and hopefully continue. I didn't realize I would hurt myself with the way I thought until the end of college, and that's when I started to get introduced to the whole psychology, reading the Mental Edge books.
What were you like with your younger brother in terms of sports and competition?**
He's smaller than me but growing up he was always better at wrestling than I was. We'd always be competitive from that nature but we'd always be supportive with each other in our sports as far as wrestling or him going to all my games. We're a close family, but yeah we're competitive and competed at everything we did with each other. He's coaching wrestling now.
You mentioned Notre Dame. Was Nebraska also a big school you wanted to attend?
I didn't really know about Nebraska until when I was getting recruited by them. For me, I wanted to go to Notre Dame since I was in catholic school at a young age. I went to catholic school for a few years until sixth grade and then I went to public. But our teacher would go to a Notre Dame game every year and bring something back for us so I was kind of drawn to the whole Notre Dame thing. I went to all their camps in high school and I ended up being a rebound offer for them. They wanted me to be a fullback first and linebacker second, so that rubbed me the wrong way. That's where I went with Nebraska.
How tough was that?
It sucked, but it is what it is. I love my decision to go to Nebraska. I literally bleed red, but bleed red from the standpoint of "Go Big Red." I love Nebraska and that was probably the best decision I've ever made.
What was Bo Pellini like as a coach?
Bo was awesome, man, definitely a player's coach, hard on you, and he'd definitely get in your face, but Bo was like another father figure to me and somebody I always looked to for advice or just football in general. I wouldn't be where I am without Bo and the knowledge he brought to the table. That's where I learned the whole IQ that people praise me for. That started at Nebraska.
Do you still talk to him today?
Yeah I talked to Bo right before training camp. I still talk to my coaches. Love them all.
When you got to the NFL, and you realized the amount of work you had to commit, did it feel like it was just the next step for you as someone always used to working harder than everyone else?
When I got here and I was undrafted, and then I figured out how much of an uphill climb it actually was, I knew it was going to be work from Day 1. It's crazy how it's all unfolded, man. A bunch of adversity. There's just a lot of perseverance, taking advantage of opportunities, some luck, the hand of God. Without all those things I'm not here. It's been one hell of a ride.
Was there a moment when a coach told you something early in your career that stuck with you, that gave you confidence?
I remember I hurt my hamstring pretty bad [in my rookie year]. At the time I could barely walk. Keenan [Robinson] had gotten hurt Day 1 of camp. Jeremy Kimbrough, who was ahead of me at the time, hurt his hamstring. So I was able to run with the twos and I remember kind of getting emotional about it because you don't get many opportunities. I was at the bottom. Elliott [Jermyn], our trainer, duct-taped me up and got me where I was able to function and I had two interceptions that day. I remember [former head coach Mike] Shanahan telling me I was his interception machine, something like that that felt good. I think at that point, as far as opening people's eyes, that helped me out, getting more looks and things like that. That was a big defining moment for me. You've just got to continue to fight.