Tyler Compton’s daily mission is attempting to be the best student-athlete that he can possibly be.
Given what the Old Dominion offensive lineman has accomplished on and off the field it is hard to imagine anybody around him would question whether he is achieving that means.
The “student” part of the equation got a head start before Compton arrived on the Norfolk, Va. campus. Thanks to being in the International Baccalaureate program and taking advanced placement classes starting in the 10th grade Compton entered ODU with nearly a full year’s worth of credits.
Now a fourth-year junior with the Monarchs, Compton got his undergrad degree in mathematics in just two-and-a-half years and is currently pursuing his master’s in business administration.
“I already had the credits to graduate in two and a half years, so the goal was to stay on track and get it done,” he said.
All the while Compton was staying on track with his work on the field. It was not easy, though. He came from a high school, Princess Anne in Virginia Beach, Va., that had a varsity football program that posted a remarkable 0-40 record during his four years there.
Recruiters were not exactly tripping over themselves to sign an offensive lineman who never experienced a single victory. With 40-plus academic credits in his back pocket he felt his best path to achieve his goal of being a Division I football player was to walk on at ODU.
“I have to give a big shout out to the coaching staff,” he said after practice on Tuesday. “There really was not a day they made me feel like a walk-on, although you are a real walk-on in the financial aid department. Even my first camp, as this real raw kid who was not up to speed with everybody else, they never treated me like a practice dummy. They gave me a real chance, which was fantastic.”
Compton, who can play all line positions, spent two seasons as a walk-on. After redshirting he got into six games in 2013. Before he got his big break, he suffered a broken left hand in spring practice the next year. Fortunately, he missed only couple of practices and was able to finish spring drills with his hand in a cast.
“I was so stressed because I knew it was a big time for me,” he said. “Every practice had a little bit of extra meaning back then because it was all about trying to earn the scholarship and really prove myself to the coaching staff at the time. I was thankful they had seen enough of me to give me the scholarship offer.”
Compton received his scholarship after spring drills, which was a remarkable moment in his life especially after two years as a walk-on and having his family pay for classes.
“The goal was always to be a Division I scholarship football player and it was really amazing to have this lifelong dream come true,” he said. “I was really emotional calling my mom and she was crying. There was so much emotion because I was so happy and it truly was a dream come true. I can always think of being in high school and the rough time with recruiting because there were not many schools talking to me.”
Last season, his first on scholarship, Compton started eight games at guard and this season he has been rotating in at both guard spots and center.
Compton, who would like to be an actuary and has a winter internship lined up with a health insurance firm, has spent a good deal of time helping others through Special Olympics and other charities.
One thing he really enjoyed was volunteering with EQUI KIDS, a therapeutic horse riding program for disabled children in Virginia Beach where he was a spotter, ready to provide assistance.
“It was one of those things that really made me feel blessed to be a healthy and fully capable human being,” said Compton, who is a math tutor at ODU. “Some of the kids did not need much help and some needed a lot. Doing stuff like that you really learn how fortunate every single healthy human being is. It is truly a great experience to give back and help people that have bigger challenges.”
Giving of his time to the less fortunate extends to encouraging students and others to sign up with the national bone marrow registry. Compton signed up following his redshirt freshman season, went through the process and proved to be a good match for a cancer-stricken 13-year-old.
Somebody else had a slightly better match and donated, but the reward of potentially saving a life was no less small.
“Something like that is something that I feel a lot of people overlook,” he said of the few minutes it takes to sign up with the registry. “You don’t think about it until you go through that process and realize, ‘Hey, I could go out there and save somebody’s life just by donating some of my time.’”
Time is something that Compton has spent wisely at ODU.