Former ASU football player running for mayor of Compton

Mike Willie, a former wide receiver who played two seasons at ASU, looks to fulfill a lifelong dream by becoming his hometown's mayor

Former ASU football wide receiver Mike Willie may finally see his lifelong dream of becoming the mayor of Compton, California, where he was born and raised, come true this April.

At just 30 years old, Willie would become the youngest mayor of Compton if elected. Courtney Skipper, Willie’s former ASU academic coach, said he talked about running for the mayor of Compton while he was still attending ASU.

The two talked about the numerous motivations Willie had for running for mayor, but Skipper said his “passion for wanting to help young kids” stood out above the rest.

“He’s trying to think of the best ways he can help the youth in Compton grow up and have a better chance at making it in life and making a difference,” Skipper said. “I think the youth that he sees regularly and was a part of himself growing up, he wants to make a difference for them more than anything else.”

After graduating from ASU in 2011, he spent time with the San Diego Chargers and the Baltimore Ravens of the NFL, as well as teams in the Arena Football League and the Canadian Football League. 

Willie last played for the Los Angeles Kiss in 2016. Since then, he has focused on aiding the Compton community.

Willie has used his connections to bring the Scholar Baller nonprofit program to his former high school, Woodrow Wilson High School, and to his former community college, Cerritos College. 

He has also connected the Compton community with the Los Angeles Chargers, who recently awarded the Compton Unified School District with a $10,000 "Hometown Grant." The grant helped "expand student health and wellness" by providing socially distanced lunch tables at McKinley Elementary School.

Willie said through these programs, the community got to know him as a “big brother," and people eventually started to encourage him to run for mayor.

“Compton needs that hometown, native kid to help with the community, and that’s what I’m here to do," Willie said. "We need somebody that the people know, that the people feel warm with. I need to do this and be here for the community.”

One of Willie's top priorities is to be “that bridge connecting the school board and the city.”

Bishop L.J. Guillory, Willie’s godfather and mentor, said if Willie is elected, he will be the first mayor “in 20 years that will have a partnership between the mayor’s office and the school district, between the city manager and the superintendent.”

Guillory, a former Compton commissioner and an advisor to current Compton mayor Aja Brown, said he has helped Willie pinpoint some of the biggest needs in the community. Guillory said bringing a hospital to the city is one of those needs that he identified. 

According to a post on LinkedIn from Willie advertising his campaign, the city of Compton has not had a hospital in 29 years.

“So, with senior citizens, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and COVID, more than 100,000 residents have to rely on neighboring communities’ hospitals to help sustain life,” Guillory said. “It has been irresponsible for the previous mayors not to address Compton not having its own hospital.”

Guillory, who also was born in Compton, said another problem the community has is retaining “successful residents.” His solution: luxury housing.

“Compton needs housing that will attract and bring back successful residents,” Guillory said. “We’re 15 minutes from the beach, 15 minutes from Hollywood, 15 minutes from Beverly Hills. So, with two NFL teams in Los Angeles, two NBA teams and a soccer team, people will want to live in luxury housing and go to downtown L.A. and to these games.”

Willie plans on using the “teamwork and effort” he learned from playing football to solve those issues if he is elected.

Compton means everything to Willie; he described the city as “his heart,” and he wants nothing more than to become mayor and help improve the city that raised him.

“Just knowing I overcame obstacles: growing up in Compton, making it to the NFL, going to college. That all was a dream,” Willie said. “I owe it to my brothers and sisters and people that helped raise me in Compton. I owe that to come back and look out for them.”

The city of Compton is set to hold its election on April 20.

Correction: Due to a source error, the photo caption incorrectly identified the positions of the people in the photo. The story was updated on March 3 at 1:10 p.m. to reflect this change. 


Reach the reporter at cfahrend@asu.edu and follow @chris_drop_ on Twitter.

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