Free agency is common in the NFL, and it can be the same in the college football coaching circles.
Bluefield head football coach Mike Gravier is well aware, having recently lost offensive line coach and two-time Super Bowl champion Mike Compton to Fairmont State.
Gravier was asked about the move on Friday night.
“Where to start? He was a huge asset,” Gravier said. “One, recruiting in this area. He knows just about every coach in the area, and everybody knows him. He brings his credibility to the recruiting trail.”
Compton, who had been part of the rejuvenated Bluefield program for the last two years, has already started working with the staff of Jason Woodman, who was an assistant for two season at Concord under the direction of Mike Kellar.
“I meet him at a scouting combine in Maryland that I went to with Mike,” Compton said. “He called me one day there at the office and asked me if I would be interested in coming to Fairmont State if he got the head job there.
“I told him I would be more than willing to come for a visit. The next thing I know he had the job and I went up and looked around. It was an opportunity for me personally that I couldn’t pass on.”
Gravier knows his program will miss the contributions of Compton, who played at Richlands High School, West Virginia University and spent 13 years as an offensive lineman with three teams in the NFL.
“Many former NFL players know what to do to handle a situation, but they can’t teach others about what to do,” Gravier said “Mike is a great teacher. He does a great job of describing the techniques and the adjustments that need to be made.”
“He’s a guy who’s seen everything. There’s nothing out there he hasn’t seen. He very definitely made a huge contribution to our program ... a local face who made it big.”
Compton admitted the decision to leave was difficult to make. He is very close to his children, and his son, Josh, is currently attending Southwest Virginia Community College, and his daughter, Sarah, is a junior athlete at Richlands.
Josh, who had originally signed to play football at Lenoir-Rhyne, could possibly wind up playing at Fairmont State, according to Compton. Sarah plays several sports for the Blue Tornado.
“He’s got family in this area. His wife’s from Richlands as well,” Gravier said. “What made Fairmont an easy move is that’s a familiar territory for him, with Fairmont being fairly close to Morgantown.”
There are also the athletes at Bluefield that Compton has worked with over the last two years, including a club season in 2011, and the first year of football since 1941 that ended with an 0-11 record this campaign.
“I became quite close, at least in mind — I don’t know about them — to those players,” Compton said. “In my mind I have spent more time with them since they reported to camp than their parents have in the last half-year.
“They grow on you and part of me wanted to stay there and develop them to get better as they did during the season. Eventually you want to see them out there and perform how you know that they can.”
Gravier figures Compton will make an impact, no matter where he coaches in the future.
“I told Mike before he left, ‘You should be coaching at the Division 1 level or the NFL. You’re that good, You just don’t know it.,’” Gravier said. “He has no idea how good he is, he really doesn’t.
“I could see him being on the fast track to a major college or the NFL, if he wants it. That’s the only thing I see that’s holding him back, is if he wants it.”
Compton leaves with mixed emotions, but does like the potential of Bluefield College to develop into a competitive program.
“I think Bluefield College has the potential a few years down the road to be a nice NAIA or potentially a Division 2 program,” Compton said. “It is going to come down to time, money and facilities.
“Once those things get into place, it is kind of like UVa-Wise, I remember at one time they had an Astroturf field in the middle of a cow pasture. These things take time, but to get those game playmakers, you have got to have the facilities to get an edge.”
He does think the school needs build the student center that has been proposed, and move the football offices and weight facilities to campus, and not two miles away where they are located on North Street.
“The set-up they have now is better than some Division 2 weight rooms, but it is a mile off campus...,” Compton said. “Bringing football back was great, a lot of young men in Virginia now have a chance to go play NAIA football, continue their athletic career and also get a chance to get a college education.
“They have to make a commitment and follow through to improve facilities, not just for football, but for all student-athletes...
“I don’t think there is any better ambassador for your college than you student athletes.”
As for Gravier, he is wasting no time filling the offensive line coaching vacancy on the Rams coaching staff.
“I’ve got two guys coming in next week,” said Gravier, who retains defensive coordinator, Stacey Hairston, another former player in the NFL.
“I hope to get this wrapped up by Tuesday evening.”
—Daily Telegraph sports writer Tom Bone contributed to this story.