David Mayo says playing in NFL was a childhood dream

David Mayo is about to embark on what may be the most important game of his career: Super Bowl 50.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO - David Mayo completes a play during a Carolina Panthers game against the Seattle Seahawks in January. Mayo, who played high school football in St. Helens and Scappoose, will compete with his team in Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7.The Carolina Panthers linebacker is in his rookie year with the team, after being drafted in May 2015.

Mayo grew up in St. Helens and finished out his high school years in Scappoose as a linebacker for the Scappoose Indians football team.

He is the second Scappoose High School grad to make it to the NFL and one of two SHS alumni playing for the Panthers. Mayo followed Derek Anderson, a backup quarterback, who was drafted to the NFL 10 years prior.PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO - Derek Anderson, backup quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, caught in a candid moment during a game against the Seattle Seahawks. Anderson is one of two former high school football players from Columbia County.

The Panthers have had a stellar season. After making it to the NFL Divisional Playoffs earlier this year and overtaking the Seattle Seahawks, the NFC team advanced to play the Arizona Cardinals, sweeping the team 49-15 at home in Charlotte, N.C.

Mayo, who plays on special teams for the Panthers, has had a remarkable start in the NFL, but it came from a tough road of rejection.

He impressed as a high school football player, but it wasn’t enough to pique the interests of college recruiters. His dad, Wayne Mayo, recalls a few college football coaches offering his son a “walk-on” tryout, but the Mayos weren’t impressed.

“I remember coming out of high school and when I realized I wasn’t going to get any offers from big schools, I wasn’t quite devastated, but I had to take a step back,” Mayo recalled, speaking to the Spotlight on Tuesday, Feb. 2.

He evaluated his options and decided to start at a junior college in Santa Monica, Calif. From there, he got a full scholarship to go to Texas State University, where he played for the Texas State Bobcats.

“It was not an easy road by any means,” Mayo said. “I think people had their doubts about me. I wasn’t quite good enough. I just had to prove them wrong.”

This weekend’s game is easily the most pressure he’s ever faced as an athlete.

After a media blitz day on Monday, Mayo spent his Tuesday recharging before heading back to practice with his teammates Wednesday. The Panthers would have three days practice prior to the game against the Denver Broncos in Santa Clara on Sunday, Feb. 7.

“We had an extra week to prepare for this game, so we had a lot of our work done as far as scouting the Broncos last week,” Mayo said.

He and his team would carry out their workweek just like any other: three consecutive days of practice, each session lasting about two and half hours.

“When it comes down to it, it’s just, you know, another game,” he said. “We take every game seriously and we prepare well for every game. We watch film. We have a game play ... we talk through plays and difficult formations that make some situations a little hairier than others.”

The 24-year-old has seen a fair amount of game play.

Mayo held the same dream many kids have when they first start throwing a football or tackling opponents, but even as he got older and entered college, he never let his childhood dream die.

“You don’t get to the NFL without having the goal of getting there,” Mayo said. “When I played in high school, my goal was to play Division 1 football, and then play professionally.”

Sean McNabb coached Anderson and, eventually, Mayo after he had transferred from St. Helens High School to Scappoose. McNabb, who still coaches the football program there, said Mayo worked his way to the top.

“Derek was more of a blue chip, recruited by everyone,” McNabb said. “David was undersized, but he was a workhorse. Cream rises to the top, and he earned it.” SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: JAKE MCNEAL - Sean McNabb, a football coach at Scappoose High School, coached Wayne Mayo and Derek Anderson, who both now play professional football in the NFL. McNabb will travel to Santa Clara, Calif. to watch his former student athletes play in the Super Bowl.

Neither Mayor nor Anderson has forgotten their roots. Mayo said the two sometimes chat about their hometown in the locker room. Anderson started a youth football camp in Scappoose, which is now run by one of his former coaches.

“Scappoose football is doing pretty well,” Mayo said. “[Derek and I] kept talking about how they’re doing. He had gotten me one of those shirts that says ‘Wick City’ on the front.”

Mayo said once he got to Texas, he chased the NFL dream even harder.

“I think I just believed in myself,” Mayo said. “I have a great support system with my family.”

His family is big. Mayo was one of eight kids in his household. This weekend, his former coach and all but one of his siblings will be in Santa Clara, watching the culmination of his childhood dream play out in Super Bowl 50.

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