Nov. 20, 2009
BY DREW EDWARDS
Time has a way of slipping by. That's certainly the case for fifth-year senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton.
It seemed like only a few days ago, he says, that he and center Josh McNeil were moving into their dorm room in Gibbs Hall. Now Crompton's career is down to two more regular season games and, most likely, a bowl game.
Crompton's playing the best football of his career in the second half of the season. In his last six games, he's completed 114 of 194 passes for 1,473 yards with 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions. His 23 touchdown passes to this point are more than Peyton Manning threw in three of his four seasons at Tennessee.
But the journey hasn't been easy.
Crompton looks back on his time at Tennessee while looking forward to Saturday's game against Vanderbilt in this Q&A:
At the end of your senior year, people tend to look back and reflect. How much have you changed or have you changed during your time here? From the shoulder injury, to all the coordinator changes, I'm sure it hasn't been easy.
"I've grown a whole lot. I came here when I was 17. I'm 22 now. I've matured so much. I've been through a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff people my age don't go through. I feel I'm fortunate to go through it at such a young age to teach me and make me more mature for other things in life that are yet to come. I know I've changed, but in a positive way. I'm more mature. I've seen a lot of things go on. But in my opinion, I'm fortunate to have been able to be a part of it."
It seems like at times this year you've really enjoyed yourself on the football field. Not to say you didn't at other points in your career, but on and off the field, it's looked like a lot more fun to be you this year. Has this year been more fun?
"In some ways it has. I feel more relaxed. My whole thing coming into this year was what did I have to lose? I went all out and just tried to have fun with it. It's paying off for not only myself but for the team and for the guys are yet to come here. They're going to be here with this coaching staff and they're going to win championships. And I'm going to love coming back to watch. It's always enjoyable when you're winning. And to see the foundation that this senior class has laid for the stuff that's about to go on."
How important was it for you as a senior to be a part of laying that foundation?
"I like it. I think it's a good thing. Obviously it would be fun to be a freshman under this staff, but that's how the dice roll sometimes. It's fun. It's a good thing to see some of the young guys mature under this staff so far already. I can say in three years, `I helped do that.' I think this senior class has really taken pride in that. For all the stuff that our seniors have been through with all the different changes and all that, it's a good thing to see go on."
For you personally, how much fun is it when you have a first half like the Memphis game? I know it's not just you, but everything working together on offense when that happens. But when things are really clicking offensively, how much fun is it?
"It's really fun, but the thing that gets it to that point is practice. We come out here and that's the reason we practice as hard as we do and at the tempo we do is to make games fun. Make them slow down. That's supposed to be the fun part of the week and the weekend. We understand that. When we got to the point that we knew that, that's when things started really clicking."
Your journey here has had some real peaks and valleys. How did you handle some of the valleys?
"I really turned to God and put my faith in Him. He knows what He's doing. He has a plan for everybody. In my opinion, He was trying to put me through a test and to see if I'd pass. There's going to be trials and all that stuff in your life. Not everything's going to be roses, and not everything's going to be perfect. I understand that, and I'm going to go through other things in my life. After going through stuff like this, a lot of other stuff, in my opinion, is not going to compare.
"I look at it from a positive way. I guess I'm kind of fortunate that I can get it out of the way. That's kind of how I dealt with it."
What have you learned most about yourself in your time here?
"I've learned and I've proved to myself that there's not a whole lot of stuff that's going to shake me. Obviously there are some things that hurt and things like that, but I've learned that I am strong-willed. I've learned that I'm mentally tough. Playing this position at this high level, you have to be. You really do. You know you are, but until you're put in that situation, you're not 100 percent sure if you really are. I give credit to my mom and dad for the way they raised me to always be humble.
"It's a different mentality when things like that happen. As a person, as a human being, I've learned that I'm a Christian. I like to do my own little thing sometimes. I like to hang out with my buddies and my friends and my girlfriend and all that, but when I'm not doing football I like to relax and kick back. But not a whole lot of the time. I'd much rather be doing football. That's a huge part of my life, and I always want it to be."
Has football remained fun for you, given some of the things you've gone through?
"Since I've been here, it's not always been fun. I've tried to make it fun, but you can't force that. It's been hard, especially some of things I've had to go through. But God puts you through bad times to get you to the good. You go through hell to get to heaven. Some people like to say if you're in the working world, sometimes you've got to take a step back to take a step forward. I feel like I've had to take that step back to take my step forward. It's paid off. You've just got to stick through it. Sometimes it's part of it, but it's been a good thing."
It's a tough question to answer, but what are some things that will stick with you from your time here? Can you describe one or two of your favorite moments?
"There's been so many. I wouldn't know right off the top of my head. I could probably name 10 or 15 that are going to stick with me for sure for a long time to come. I wouldn't be able to pinpoint just one."
Have you given any consideration to Saturday being your last game in Neyland Stadium?
"Not yet. Right now, it's just another game. Just another conference game to get bowl eligible. After the game is when it will hit me that I just played my last snap in Neyland Stadium. Last time I'll set foot in this locker room as a player. Right now, I'm not really thinking about it. I'm trying to stay away from it because I don't want to get distracted for the game."
Have you always been that focused as a football player?
"I've tried to be. My high school coach did a good job teaching that - always stay focused on the task at hand. He taught me a lot of stuff, he really did, with the game of football. At the same time, my family says the same thing. Right now, as in life, you've got to go onto the next thing. This is just another step to another phase of my life."
Have you thought much about the next step for you? You graduated in May, and you've been working towards a Master's degree this fall.
"I'll be training and all that, and everything that goes along with that. Right now, I'm focused on Vanderbilt. That's my main focus right now. That's the most important thing that's going on."
Anything I didn't ask you that you think people might be interested in about your time here?
"I still remember the day I moved on campus. It was May 28, 2005. I was actually five days away from graduating high school when I moved up here. I still hadn't walked and gotten my diploma. That was something. I didn't get a senior trip like everybody else gets. I didn't get a summer. I was up here. Normally, guys will show up the first or second week of June and take their senior trip or come up in July. Josh McNeil and I both moved in the same day. Met out here in the parking lot and moved our stuff into Gibbs (Hall) because we were roommates. It seems like it was yesterday, and it's been five years. Man, it's been that long."
That is a long time.
"It's been a long time. But it goes by quick. It's gone by really quick since I've been here. The same thing with high school. I still remember my last football game. I felt like I was a freshman two days before that. It's been a long journey."
If you had it to do over again, would you still choose this experience for yourself?
"Yeah. Because it teaches you a lot about yourself. It makes you a stronger person mentally. Everything that happened, I kind of think of it in a positive way. I've got five offenses in my apartment that I know. It makes you more knowledgeable about football. I know all this different terminology, so nobody's new terminology is going to shock me. I'm used to it. I've had a new offense every spring. I've had two head coaches, four offensive coordinators and three quarterback coaches. Nothing is a shock to me anymore. At such a young age, it teaches you that. Personally, I feel that since I've had to go through that now, that I'm fortunate because at the next level that didn't have to go through it in college might be a shock to them then. I'll already be prepared because I've had to go through it now."
Do you wish you had more time with these coaches, in this system, the way things are going?
"It would be fun. But at the same time, it's my time to go ahead and move on and go to the next phase of my life, whatever God has planned for me. If I was a senior in high school, there would be no doubt that I would be the first one committed to this coaching staff. The way they prepare and the way you can tell they genuinely care about each player is amazing. You don't really find that at a whole of places. Places will say that, but you don't find it like you do with this staff. They're amazing at what they do."