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Compton provides mates with extra "coach"

His eyes are intense. His physique, coupled with a shaved head and blonde goatee, offer a strong resemblance to professional wrestler "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.

Make no mistake; Mike Compton is an intimidating man. At 6-6 and 298 pounds, he is a hulking presence with an on-the-field mean streak to match. After eight seasons with Detroit, he is one of the many new faces in New England, signed as a free agent to provide a veteran leader on a young, rebuilding offensive line.

In many senses, Compton is the ideal man to bring in. The Patriots have nearly 20 offensive linemen on their roster, most of who have one season or less at the professional. Compton has played every spot along the line during his career, and he will no doubt be counted on to provide a solid example for his still-learning teammates.

While his main purpose in New England is to solidify one of the guard spots next to Damien Woody, Compton will certainly be tabbed for advice by the young pups on the line. Fortunately he has a background in coaching. For three years while he was with the Lions, Compton spent his offseasons volunteering with a junior varsity high school baseball team in his hometown of Richlands, Va.

"A lot of the people I went to high school with are now teachers, and one of my buddies was the junior varsity baseball coach, and he would pay me with dinner," said Compton, who coached the catchers and outfielders. "I used to love baseball. That was my first love. For some reason I just started grow, and I got better at football than I did at baseball. I like to coach and be around young kids. It was just a way for me to get my feet wet and get some experience as far as coaching on the high school level."

It's been a while since he left the diamond, but Compton knows he and fellow signee Joe Panos need to serve as "coaches" for the younger players in order to get the line playing well as quickly as possible. So, what are the keys to successful coaching?

"The most important thing I found as a coach is that you put your players in good position to make plays, and then you allow them to make the plays and have fun," Compton said. "I found it really easy to communicate. These were ninth and 10th graders, but I found out that if you were honest and up front, and you don't try to lie or give them the run-around, they will respond well. If you are blunt and straight lined with them, they'll go out and they'll play hard. Really I think that's the case with athletes at any level."

Compton believes a major key for the line is to get the best group together as quickly as possible. It takes time to gain trust and confidence in the guys on either side of you, but it's a vital trust. One area that shouldn't matter is who is running the ball. New England does not have a definite starter yet, but that doesn't change the focus for Compton and the line.

"Right now I don't even know all of the running backs. I'm trying to learn all of their names first, but to me it doesn't matter," Compton said. "Unless you have one guy who comes in and, bam, just runs straight ahead, and then your second guy in the rotation is like Barry Sanders and runs all over the field, in that case it's tough because you have two totally different styles.

"Just speaking as an offensive linemen, it doesn't matter who the running back is or what kind of style they have. That doesn't have an affect on how we five guys up front block. If we're getting six inches or more of movement off the line, we are covering guys up and everybody is getting on their blocks and staying there, it doesn't matter what type of running back you've got. If you make holes, it will help any style of running back."

For more on Mike Compton's keys to a successful offensive line, check out the next Patriots Football Weekly, due out next week.
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