Ogden Compton turns 85 in August but he remembers playing football at North Dallas High School as if it were yesterday. Actually, he almost quit playing football at North Dallas, and if he did, he probably wouldn’t have made his way into the NFL record book. As a rookie quarterback with the Chicago Cardinals, his 98-yard touchdown pass in 1955 “was the throw of a lifetime.”
Compton recently sat down to talk about his career at North Dallas and tell his story (or stories). He attended Stephen J. Hay and learned to play football in the neighborhood. Pat Roach, who was two years older, taught Compton how to throw the football. Roach was a good athlete, Compton said, and he told stories about Slinging Sammy Baugh, who played college football at TCU. Roach told Compton that Baugh was “the greatest player he had ever seen.”
Compton never got to see Baugh play, but he remembers going to SMU football games. He also became a good passer.
“It got to the point where as a 12-year-old, I could throw the football better than my peers,” Compton said.
“Coach, I quit”
Compton said he went to North Dallas in September 1945 as a 5-foot-9, 103-pound “terror.” At the first practice, “I walked out the first afternoon to get a uniform and some smart guy said, “I’m not sure we got any that small,’’ Compton said.
“I went to North Dallas and they didn’t have a B team, or C team. They had the varsity and the ragnots, of which I was a prominent member,” Compton said. “So I did that for a couple of years and I got to throw the football a lot in practice, but we didn’t play any games. We did scrimmage the big boys. I was still making progress as a passer but the rest of the stuff I didn’t care much about.”
Entering his junior year, Compton was ready for a change. His weight was up to 135 pounds. He decided he needed to talk to Coach Rufus Hyde, who coached for 35 years at North Dallas.
“So, my junior year was a deciding point,” Compton said. “I decided my first two years of football at North Dallas sucked. I wasn’t going anywhere. All I was doing was throwing some footballs around, which I could do at the park. And I went up to Coach Hyde, and I said, ‘Coach, I quit. I’m not going to play anymore.’ He said, ‘Come on.’ And I said, ‘Yeah that’s it. I’m tired of playing over here.’ These guys weren’t any good. That isn’t to say I was all that much better. But they were terrible, plus I was taking a beating.
“So, he says, ‘I tell you what. You come out this afternoon and I’ll put you on the varsity.’ Boy, he got me right there. ‘I tell you what, I’ll be there.’ He goes out and issues me a varsity uniform and I practice with the varsity for 10 days. And they were clearly bigger, faster, stronger than my 135 pounds. So he gets me aside — he liked me, my family — so Coach Hyde says, ‘I tell you what we’re going to do. They’re going to have intercity B teams this year. A B team from all six of the high schools. I want you to get some experience.’ ‘OK Coach, I’ll do it’. We go out there and we didn’t win a game. We played six games and didn’t win one. I played every down of those games and was lucky to get off a few passes. It was another beating. This was the worst football team I had ever seen in my life.”
Compton played varsity football as a senior. He made the team as a “specialist,’ who came into the game to pass the ball. At 16, he was up to 150 pounds.
“I could clearly throw the football better than anybody on the team,” he said. “It was true. I made the team as a specialist.“
Compton’s senior season (1948-49) at North Dallas earned him a weekend visit to the University of Texas. He went to a basketball game and hung out in the dorm with other athletes. He also had a talk with University of Texas football Coach Fred Akers, who told him he was “small” for the Southwest Conference and advised him to go to a junior college to grow up.
Meeting Sam Baugh
So Compton went off to Henderson County Junior College in Athens, which is now called Trinity Valley Community College. He said he was a “specialist” there at Henderson for two seasons. Coach Hyde recommended Compton to the football coach at Hardin-Simmons, which was a NCAA Division I school then but is now Division III.
Compton became an all-conference quarterback at Hardin-Simmons his senior year. But “the highlight” of his athletic career came on the first day of spring practice his junior season at Hardin-Simmons.
“Ever since I was 12 years old, I wanted to be Sam Baugh,” Compton said. “So, in spring practice my junior year, I go out … I was a big practice guy. Always the first one out there and the last one to leave. I would stay out there if anybody would want to catch with me. So, I was out there the first day of practice and ready to go. I had my football in my hand and nobody else.
“And on our practice field, I see this figure about the 50-yard line walking straight at me. And I said, ‘Who is that?’ And he walks up to me … He was 6-2, 185, and I was 6-1, 175, and he goes out and says, ‘Hi Comp, I’m Sam Baugh.’ Holy Smoke! … He finished his pro career and had a big ranch in Rotan. He was the best athlete I had every seen in my life. You should see him ride a horse. You’d think he was Roy Rogers. I was dumbfounded. I was 19 years old. But I recovered quick enough and we fortunately hit it off.”
“Well, I said, ‘Sam, will you play catch with me?’ and he said, ‘Sure.’
Compton said Baugh became the highest paid player in the NFL when he signed with the Washington Redskins out of TCU. Baugh was the sixth pick overall in the 1937 NFL draft.
“He was the best guy in the world,’ Compton said. “Sam taught me how to run to my left and throw on the run. For a right-handed passer, that’s not easy to do. He was the best passer of a football I have ever seen. Sam and I would go out early every day of spring practice, 30 minutes early. Just he and I. Imagine a kid like me spending time with an immortal like him for 30 minutes every single day of spring practice. I couldn’t get out there fast enough.”
Compton made all-conference his senior year and Hardin-Simmons almost won the conference title. Compton said Baugh was only there his junior year on a part-time deal. He went back to ranching in nearby Rotan. Baugh became head coach at Hardin-Simmons the following year.
On to the NFL
Compton said he asked Baugh about playing in the NFL. He went to the Chicago Cardinals as an undrafted free agent but then he was drafted into the military from 1953-55. After serving in the military, he went back to the Cardinals camp in 1955.
“I come back out there and they offered me a slight raise to come back,” Compton said. “I was the 12th quarterback [on the team]. We had the starter from the year before, Lamar McHan, from Arkansas. I go up there and I’m battling all these people. Some I had heard of and they kept falling by the wayside.”
When it got closer to the season opener, the Cardinals were down to three quarterbacks. McHan, Dave Mann and Compton. Mann was the No. 2 draft pick from Ohio State and the Most Valuable Player in the Rose Bowl the year before.
“We played the 49ers when they were really good. They beat McHan up. They knocked him all over the field,” Compton said. “They put in Dave Mann and he threw 3 or 4 passes. He looked like a wounded duck. So, they put me in the game. I complete the first pass I throw to [Dick] “Night Train” Lane. Anyway, I complete a pass or two, and the 49ers beat us handily in Kezar Stadium. That’s the last offensive play that Dave Mann ever plays that season. He was relegated to holding the ball on extra points. He was making more money than I was but I didn’t care. That wasn’t that important.”
Compton also recalled playing with the legendary Pat Summerall, the former New York Giant and TV broadcaster for CBS, Fox and ESPN who broadcast NFL games as well as golf and tennis events. Summerall passed away in 2013.
“He was one of the nicest guys I ever met in my life,” Compton said. “Super guy, super athlete. He had been in the NFL 2 or 3 years before I got there. The Cardinals traded him to the Giants and that changed his life forever. He was very deservingly so. He’s such a good guy.
“I saw him before he died. We were out on the golf course. He was playing with somebody and I was playing with a friend of mine. This little girl drove up and she said, ‘We have a celebrity here today.’ And I said, ‘Who is that?’ and she said, “Pat Summerall.’ So she drove us over to him, and I said, ‘Hey Pat, how are ya?’ He looked at me, and said, ‘I still remember that pass play you made in Green Bay.’ How about that! … He was a wonderful human being.”
Compton said the Cardinals had a decent team in 1955 but weren’t a championship team. He said it was so “extraordinary difficult to go from college football to the NFL” and play quarterback. McHan told Compton it takes time to learn everything.
“We had a decent team. We didn’t have a good team. We weren’t at the bottom,” Compton said. “We were closer to the middle. But we weren’t a championship team. We had too many question marks at certain positions. The defense sucked and we didn’t have any good offensive ends. We were kinda mediocre. We lost more than we had won. When you go into New York, Washington, and San Francisco to play against the best players in the world, your eyes are wide open.”
Compton said he weighed 192 pounds with the Cardinals and could throw the ball 70 to 75 yards. But it was his 98-yard touchdown pass that got him into the NFL record book. There are 13 NFL quarterbacks who have thrown 99-yard touchdown passes and nine who have thrown 98-yard touchdown passes.
Tobin Rote was the Packers’ quarterback, and “they were clearly better than us,” Compton said. The game was starting the fourth quarter when he entered the game. He recalls the play with fondness:
“The game — Nov. 13, 1955 — we were at balmy Green Bay. The Packers were up on us. The Packers had just punted out of bounds on our 2-yard line. I’m standing on the sidelines and the coach says, ‘Compton, you go in.’ And do I deserve to go in on the 2? So sure enough, I grab my helmet and go in. First couple of plays I tried a sideline pass, a draw play and nothing worked. Into the game comes Dick “Night Train” Lane, and I called a 12-yard hook for our receivers to get the ball out of there. Because by then, third and 10, the Packers were in an all out blitz. They rushed nine guys. Well, Dick goes down — he had great speed, faked the safety and he was waving his arms. And I’m back in the end zone, about to be demolished, and I let it go. He caught it somewhere around the 30 or 40 and went 98 yards. He was in the ball game for one play on the offense.
“I came off the field and Lamar McHan was my roommate. We were good friends. and he had just an awful, day, and when I came off the field, he said, ‘Compton, you’re the luckiest SOB I ever saw.”
|NFL Record Book
Longest Pass Completion (All TDs except as noted)
|99||Frank Filchock (to Farkas), Washington vs. Pittsburgh, Oct. 15, 1939
George Izo (to Mitchell), Washington vs. Cleveland, Sept. 15, 1963
Karl Sweetan (to Studstill), Detroit vs. Baltimore, Oct. 16, 1966
Sonny Jurgensen (to Allen), Washington vs. Chicago, Sept. 15, 1968
Jim Plunkett (to Branch), L.A. Raiders vs. Washington, Oct. 2, 1983
Ron Jaworski (to Quick), Philadelphia vs. Atlanta, Nov. 10, 1985
Stan Humphries (to Martin), San Diego vs. Seattle, Sept. 18, 1994
Brett Favre (to Brooks), Green Bay vs. Chicago, Sept. 11, 1995
Trent Green (to Boerigter), Kansas City vs. San Diego, Dec. 22, 2002
Jeff Garcia (to Davis), Cleveland vs. Cincinnati, Oct. 17, 2004
Gus Frerotte (to Berrian), Minnesota vs. Chicago, Nov. 30, 2008
Tom Brady (to Welker), New England vs. Miami, Sept. 12, 2011
Eli Manning (to Cruz), N.Y. Giants vs. N.Y. Jets, Dec. 24, 2011
|98||Doug Russell (to Tinsley), Chi. Cardinals vs. Cleveland, Nov. 27, 1938
Ogden Compton (to Lane), Chi. Cardinals vs. Green Bay, Nov. 13, 1955
Bill Wade (to Farrington), Chicago Bears vs. Detroit, Oct. 8, 1961
Jacky Lee (to Dewveall), Houston vs. San Diego, Nov. 25, 1962
Earl Morrall (to Jones), N.Y. Giants vs. Pittsburgh, Sept. 11, 1966
Jim Hart (to Moore), St. Louis vs. Los Angeles, Dec. 10, 1972 (no TD)
Bobby Hebert (to Haynes), Atlanta vs. New Orleans, Sept. 12, 1993
Charlie Batch (to Morton), Detroit vs. Chicago, Oct. 4, 1998
Ryan Fitzpatrick (to Owens), Buffalo vs. Jacksonville, Nov. 22, 2009
|97||Pat Coffee (to Tinsley), Chi. Cardinals vs. Chi. Bears, Dec. 5, 1937
Bobby Layne (to Box), Detroit vs. Green Bay, Nov. 26, 1953
George Shaw (to Tarr), Denver vs. Boston, Sept. 21, 1962
Bernie Kosar (to Slaughter), Cleveland vs. Chicago, Oct. 23, 1989
Steve Young (to Taylor), San Francisco vs. Atlanta, Nov. 3, 1991
Compton said he was interviewed on WGN-TV in Chicago the next night, and when he came back to Dallas, sportscaster Jerry Haynes of WFAA-TV Channel 8, interviewed him on the sports segment. Haynes later became the famous “Mr Peppermint.”
“To sum it all up, when you have a chance to play with and against the greatest players that ever played the game, that is a huge payment in your lifetime,” Compton said. “And I was a very good player in college. I was a good player in the NFL, but I’m not in the Hall of Fame.
“A lot of good stuff happened that I’ll be forever grateful. No one would have ever guessed from North Dallas High that I would wind up in the NFL. Least of all me. I didn’t think I’d be there either.”
Compton, who played one season in the NFL, said his salary was $5,500. He got an offer from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Canadian Football League and went there the next season. He didn’t last long.
“I got an offer from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats,” he said. “I went up there and that was my first mistake. It was cold weather and a third-rate operation. I had been up there three or four weeks and my uncle who helped raise me, my cousin’s father, had passed away unbeknownst to me. When I heard that, I said I’m going home. I’m not playing in the snow. I’m a warm weather guy. It just wasn’t for me. So, I came home.”
Compton, who spent over 50 years in the insurance business, recalled seeing North Dallas coach Rufus Hyde at a YMCA event in the late ’50s or early ’60s.
“One of the nicest things ever said about me was by Rufus Hyde,” Compton said. “After I quit playing, they used to have a Saturday morning quarterback club down at the YMCA. I saw in the paper that Coach Hyde was going to be the speaker that Saturday morning. I went down there and there was probably 80 to 100 people. He gets up and starts his speal. He was always an interesting guy to listen to. I had gone up and shaken hands with him before it started, and said “Hi Coach.’ From the podium, he said this… ‘In the audience today, we have one of my former players Ogden Compton, who I will tell you now was the best passer I ever coached.’ It doesn’t get much better than that.”