Ask Vikings teammates Tom Compton and Kirk Cousins how their friendship formed so quickly — when both were 23-year-old rookies with the Washington Redskins — and they cite highbrow and lowbrow material almost equally.
“We’re both from that heartland, Midwest area — same age. We both went to college, and we took school seriously,” Cousins said. “I think in a lot of ways, we’re deeper thinkers. We enjoy learning other things — not just football — so we can have a conversation outside of football.”
Said Compton: “It stood out pretty quickly. You throw in a random ‘[The] Office’ or ‘Heavyweights’ quote, and the other guy picked it up, and you know you’re in good company. Even just quoting random commercials from growing up, and them knowing the other part of it, you’re like, ‘That’s my guy right there.’ ”
Cousins will start at quarterback and Compton is expected to start at left guard when the Vikings open their season on Sunday.
When they roomed together for two seasons in Washington, they built a bond that took them as many places away from football as it did when the two were on the field at the same time. Compton wasn’t in the Redskins’ starting lineup for any of Cousins’ 11 starts during their first three seasons together in Washington; by the time Cousins became the full-time starter in 2015, Compton played just 210 snaps, after logging 650 the year before.
And yet, there was Compton, the Rosemount native, filling the cameo role Cousins was supposed to play in 2015’s “Sharknado 3,” and traveling to Nashville after the 2016 season to play drums while Cousins recorded vocals with Midnight Pilot, his high school buddy Kyle Schonewill’s band.
Their friends and family have heard the recordings, Cousins said, and the copies won’t be distributed any further than that.
“It was all covers: Switchfoot, Needtobreathe, Matt Kearney, Ben Rector,” Cousins said. “As a joke, we did a Blink 182 song to give him a challenge on the drums, to do something really fast, which he did well.
“He’s really good — like, really good. I gave him some songs that were hard, and he could play them. He joked with me — he said one time, ‘Anything you’ve seen me do in life, I’m better at drumming than I am at that thing.’ So what he was trying to say was, ‘The best thing I do is drum.’ And I said, ‘Well, you know, you’re a NFL offensive lineman.’ And he said, ‘Nah, I’m better at drumming.’ ”
Now, the role Compton will play with the Vikings could be one of the keys to Cousins’ season.
Compton stepped in at left guard during training camp, after Nick Easton needed surgery to repair a bulging disc in his neck, as the Vikings pieced together the middle of their offensive line.
The Vikings also will have a new center, at least for one week, with Brett Jones starting in place of Pat Elflein on Sunday, and they moved Mike Remmers from right tackle to right guard after using him there in the playoffs.
Compton will make his second opening day start in as many years after beginning the year as the Bears’ starting left guard in 2017. When the preseason began, the Vikings found plenty of running room behind Compton and Riley Reiff on the left side, and they will look to sustain those results over four quarters Sunday, while Compton, Jones and Remmers try to stabilize the middle of the line.
“Any time you’ve got a guy who’s played in the Super Bowl [with Atlanta], played six years, been in different schemes, he quote-unquote gets it,” Cousins said of Compton. “He knows what it should look like, and he knows what it takes. He’s gone against some really good pass rushers. I like someone who’s been in the fire before, and isn’t figuring it out as they go, but at least knows what they can do and knows the challenge that it is.”
Compton also knows the opportunity that awaits him — to excel in his hometown, with his former roommate, on a team that will be counting on a steady offensive line to facilitate its Super Bowl aspirations.
“Injuries have been tough on us,” he said. “I feel like that seems to be one of the constants in the NFL — there’s always injuries and turnover. Whether I’m starting, whatever position it’s at, I’m going to treat it like that’s my spot, and someone’s got to take it from me. It’s just the way I’ve been going about it every day.”