That is, if you consider living in a shed for a year while playing at Santa Monica (California) College the outhouse and being selected in the fifth round of the NFL draft the penthouse.
Yes, a shed.
Mayo couldn’t afford a traditional apartment because the cost of living was so high in West Los Angeles. So in 2011 a woman rented him a spot in the shed behind her house -- for $450 a month.
There was no electricity, plumbing or insulation. It was just four walls with a concrete floor. For furnishings, Mayo had a bed and an ottoman. He worked at a church within walking distance to help pay the bills.
“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," Mayo said on Saturday after the Panthers selected him with one of their two compensatory picks.
So what did Mayo do for a bathroom? He didn’t have to resort to an outhouse.
“I was able to use the house for the kitchen," Mayo said. “They gave me some shelf space for food. I could use their shower and bathroom in the house."
Mayo chose that experience over going to a smaller college out of Scappoose (Oregon) High School because he wanted to play big-time college football even though no big-time schools were offering him a scholarship.
Not even Oregon or Oregon State.
He made it work. After being named all-Pacific Conference at Santa Monica, Texas State offered him a scholarship. The school was transitioning to the FBS under coach Dennis Franchione in 2012, so it seemed like a natural fit for a player who hat was in transition.
After a couple of tough seasons plagued by injuries -- a meniscus tear in 2012 and an MCL injury in 2013 -- Mayo emerged as the country’s second-leading tackler with 154 and the Sun Belt Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.
It still was an uphill battle into the NFL. Mayo wasn’t invited to the combine so he had to impress at Texas State’s pro day. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds for scouts from 19 teams. That put him on par with the top 12 inside linebackers in the draft.
The Panthers were the only team to bring Mayo in for a visit. While at Bank of America Stadium, Mayo met Carolina inside linebacker Luke Kuechly, who, like him, has been dubbed a tackling machine.
“Hopefully, I can learn a thing or two from him," Mayo said of Kuechly, the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and the league’s top tackler in 2014. “He will set the tone and give me the right example. It’s going to be great. I’m really excited to play under him.”
But Mayo won’t have to live in a shed. The total contract for a fifth-round draft pick last season began at more than $2.3 million over four years. Carolina 2014 fifth-round pick Bene’ Benwikere got a $199,000 signing bonus.
With that kind of money and the cost of living in Charlotte, Mayo can afford to buy a house and rent a shed in the backyard.
“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 and I knew I could play at," Mayo said as he recalled his experience living in the shed. “I just did whatever it took."