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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Carolina Panthers rookie linebacker David Mayo was willing to sacrifice just about anything to make his NFL dream come true, including living in a shed for a year.
Mayo wasn't satisfied with the college scholarship offers coming out of high school, so he chose to attend Santa Monica (Calif.) Community College in hopes of attracting more attention from FBS schools.
When he arrived in Santa Monica in 2011 he says the cost of living was "insane" and the only thing he could afford was to rent out a shed behind a house. For $450 a month, he got a mattress, an ottoman and an extension cord that ran from the house to the shed for power.
It all seems worth it now to Mayo, who earned a scholarship to play at Texas State, where he won Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2014 and was drafted last weekend in the fifth round by the Panthers.
"I couldn't be happier," said Mayo, who averaged 12.8 tackles per game and forced three fumbles as a senior.
Mayo looks back on his living arrangements at Santa Monica Community College — the same school where former Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith spent his first two years of college — and laughs.
"I had a bed and this little ottoman thing for my clothes," Mayo said. "That was it. It was cement floors and it wasn't insulated. I ran an extension cord from the house out to the shed so I could power my computer, power my phone at night, and a lamp and a heater in the winter."
He was able to use the kitchen in the house to cook food. He was also allowed to shower there and use the toilet.
"They didn't have any room for me to stay in the house so I just slept out in the shed," Mayo said.
The 6-foot-2, 228-pound Mayo, who has long blond hair and large biceps, said he hopes the experience has made him stronger.
It also made him hungry to achieve his NFL dream.
"It was pretty crazy, but it was where I felt that I needed to play to earn my Division I scholarship that I felt I deserved," Mayo said. "I knew I could play at (that level). I just did whatever it took."
Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman loves Mayo's work ethic.
He called Mayo a "high motor kid" who is "smart, instinctive and can run. He's got very good straight line speed and he will tag your fanny, too."
Mayo is expected to battle for a backup spot behind middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Coach Ron Rivera said Mayo can also play strong side linebacker.
Mayo put up some gaudy stats during his final year at Texas State with 154 tackles. Mayo can't wait to meet and play with Kuechly, whom he said will be a perfect mentor for him coming into the league.
"He is outstanding," Mayo said of Kuechly. "I am so fortunate to go to a place like this where I can learn from a player like that. (Kuechly) went to Boston College and just right off the bat started playing like a boss. I am really excited. Hopefully I can learn a thing or two from him."
The Panthers have already made it clear to Mayo that he'll have to earn his playing time, which likely will including contributing on special teams — something he didn't do much of in college because he was so valuable on defense.
"I'm going to have to earn my stripes," Mayo said. "I'm excited for it. It's going to be a good chance for me."
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