CHARLOTTE – In less than four years, David Mayo has gone from the outhouse to the penthouse.
Mayo, who lived in a backyard shed while attending Santa Monica (Calif.) College, earned a Division I scholarship after laying the wood to a bevy of ball carriers.
Now, following three productive seasons at Texas State, the linebacker is preparing for life in the NFL after the Panthers selected him in the fifth round (No. 169 overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft.
"I couldn't be happier. I'm so excited to be in an organization like this," Mayo said. "I visited there, and I really loved the coaches and staff. I think it's going to be a great fit."
The Panthers feel much the same about Mayo, a 6-2, 228-pounder who ranked second in the nation last season with 12.8 tackles per game – and earned Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors.
"He's smart. He's instinctive. He can run. He's got very good straight-line speed, and he will tag your fanny," general manager Dave Gettleman said. "We had him in for a visit – he was one of our 30 – and I'm thrilled that we got this kid.
"This is a kid out of high school who wasn't crazy about the opportunities he was getting, so he went to JUCO for a year to improve his scholarship opportunities. Then he goes to Texas State on a full boat and has a heck of a career for them as a three-year starter."
Mayo didn't receive a Division I scholarship offer out of Scappoose (Ore.) High School, so he opted to play for a junior college program that has produced the likes of former Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith and Hall of Fame cornerback Jimmy Johnson.
Santa Monica has a notoriously high cost of living, but Mayo was willing to pay the price in order to pursue his football dreams.
"I just did whatever it took. The price of living there is just insane, so I ended up finding a place that was in my price range," Mayo said. "It was a shed. I took it.
"It was $450 a month. I had a bed and this little ottoman thing for my clothes, and that was it. It had cement floors, wasn't insulated. I ran an extension cord from the house, so I could power up my computer and phone and a lamp and a heater in the winter."
Mayo joked that the shed was "kind of all-inclusive" because he didn't have to pay for the electricity he used and had access to the kitchen and bathroom in the main house. He didn't let his living arrangements impede him on game day and earned a scholarship to Texas State.
Now he's in position to earn a job in the NFL.
"He's a high-impact player, and that equates very nice to special teams," head coach Ron Rivera said. "He's a knock-back tackler. When he hits guys, he has the ability to knock them back. He's a downhill player who plays very well with his hands and has good vision.
"We talk about position flexibility. He'll be able to play strong side or MIKE linebacker for us. When you can only keep so many guys active on Sundays, a guy like this with his kind of position flexibility is someone you must certainly want to consider, especially with the way he plays."