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VHSL HALL OF FAME: Richlands' Mike Compton one of nine newest inductees

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Mike Compton spent 12 seasons in the National Football League, blocking for Barry Sanders, snapping the ball to Tom Brady and winning two Super Bowl rings.

Prior to that the offensive lineman played in the Gator Bowl, battled in the trenches against the Miami Hurricanes and started in front of 90,000-plus fans at Penn State’s Beaver Stadium.

Yet, many of his fondest memories on the gridiron occurred from 1984-87 while playing for the Richlands High School Blue Tornado.

Wearing that No. 77 blue-and-white jersey, bursting through a banner and running onto the field amid cheers at Ernie Hicks Stadium, playing alongside his childhood friends and trying to gain Southwest District supremacy against rivals like Tazewell and Graham.

“I played in about every kind of football game – Monday Night Football, the Super Bowl, but there’s just something about the air and the atmosphere of being out there on a Friday night in a high school football game,” Compton said. “No matter if you are in Richlands, Virginia, or Hoover, Alabama, or Valdosta, Georgia, or somewhere in Texas, there’s nothing like it. Those four years were very special and you don’t realize until later on just how special it is.”

Compton made the most of his time at Richlands and it was officially announced on Monday that he is among the Virginia High School League Hall of Fame’s nine newest inductees. The enshrinement ceremony will take place Feb. 6 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Charlottesville.

This is the second Hall Call for Compton.

In 2005 he became a member of the Sports Hall of Fame at West Virginia University, where he was a consensus All-American center for the Mountaineers in 1992.

“As a high school kid, I couldn’t have imagined the way my entire life turned out after 1986,” Compton said. “Being inducted or even considered for any kind of Hall of Fame was far and above anybody’s thoughts, particularly mine. I tried to stay well-grounded and that was my upbringing.

“I’m very humble and blessed to be able to be elected to the VHSL Hall of Fame. I know the late Gene Nolley, along with Larry Worrell and Dr. John Willis really pushed for me to get nominated and selected and I’m very appreciative. … There are probably way too many people to thank off the top of my head.”

VHSL Executive Director Billy Haun was Compton’s coach during his senior season at Richlands and remembers seeing the big man on campus for the first time.

“That was pretty amazing to walk in and see a kid that size,” Haun said. “When you coach high school football, you don’t see many kids that are 6-foot-6, 6-7 and Mike was probably about 280 pounds at that point.”

Compton played on both sides of the ball at Richlands and opponents dreaded looking across the line and seeing him ready for the snap.

“I can remember teams double-teaming him regularly and he would still make the tackle,” said Jeff Ray, a teammate of Compton’s at Richlands. “He was one of the biggest reasons that our defense had seven shutouts our senior season.”

Richlands went 8-3 in 1987 and qualified for the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.

“It was a little harder to make the playoffs back then,” Compton said. “That was a good way to finish four years of hard work by our senior class.”

Compton and his Blue Tornado teammates were indeed a blue-collar bunch. Compton also wrestled and played baseball at Richlands.

“That was a team full of hard-workers and Mike was one of them” Haun said. “I started in July and we’d have weightlifting and Mike would also be out there running every afternoon, running the mile and trying to make his mile time better. He wanted to be good and he wanted to play college football.”

The final game of Compton’s high school career was a memorable 27-21 overtime loss to Virginia High in the first round of the 1987 Region IV, Division 4 playoffs. On the contest’s final play, Richlands quarterback Adam Lallande completed a pass to Chad King in the end zone, but King was ruled out of bounds and VHS was victorious.

The controversial call has been debated ever since as Richlands supporters insist King scored.

“Even now, 18 million years later or whatever it is, I still thought he was in bounds and caught the ball in overtime,” Compton said. “That was my first experience playing on a Saturday prior to college.”

He shined on Saturdays at WVU and then played for pay on Sundays, being selected by the Detroit Lions in the third round of the 1993 NFL Draft.

He played with Detroit from 1993-2000, won two Super Bowl championships with the New England Patriots from 2001-2003 and played his final NFL season with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2004.

“It just makes you proud that you had the opportunity to coach him, work with him and get to know him,” Haun said. “There was not any question in my mind that Mike was going to reach some pretty high goals.”

Compton has been in the coaching profession since his playing days ended.

He was an assistant coach at Tazewell High School for a couple of seasons, was the head coach of the Patrick Henry High School Rebels from 2008-2010 and has been in the college ranks ever since.

Compton currently serves as the offensive line coach at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.

“This coming season will be my 42nd year in football, so I’ve had a lot of people to imitate, mirror and learn from who were huge influences on me,” Compton said. “Like I said, there are too many people to thank, but I hope they all know how grateful and thankful I am for their help.”

Compton is part of an impressive group of athletes to be enshrined by the VHSL this year and joining him are JJ Redick from Cave Spring in Roanoke, Kara Lawson from West Springfield and Allen Johnson from Lake Braddock.

Redick scored 2,214 points playing basketball at Cave Spring and led the Knights to the 2002 VHSL Group AAA state title. He later became the nation’s player of the year at Duke University and played 15 seasons in the NBA.

Lawson was the Naismith Girls High School Basketball Player of the Year in 1999 and then starred at the University of Tennessee, played in the WNBA and suited up for the U.S. Olympic team.

Johnson won the gold medal in the men’s 110-meter hurdles at the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Coaches inducted are Claire Le Blanc (volleyball, field hockey at Green Run, Princess Anne, Frank W. Cox), Larry Parpart (girls tennis, boys basketball, cross country at Hermitage and Douglas S. Freeman) and Mike Webb (boys soccer at Courtland and Chancellor).

Jon Almquist (athletic trainer for Fairfax County Public Schools) and Craig Wood (VHSL Legal Counsel) are contributors being honored.

thayes@bristolnews.com | Twitter:@Hayes_BHCSports | (276) 645-2570

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One of the most successful football coaches in recent memory in Southwest Virginia returned over the weekend. Greg Mance spent 23 years, from 1997-2019, winning 205 games at Richlands. He returned last Saturday to take part in a signing ceremony for Richlands senior Sage Webb, who committed to continue his athletic and academic career at the University of Pennsylvania.

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