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Ex-Scappoose standout becomes a father and starts at linebacker in Carolina's opening NFL victory

PHOTO COURTESY: MICHAEL WORKMAN - Starting at outside linebacker, fourth-year NFL player David Mayo from Scappoose helped lead the Carolina Panthers to a 16-8 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in their season opener.It was a sunny Tuesday in Huntersville, North Carolina, the suburb of Charlotte in which David Mayo resides.

But Hurricane Florence was coming, and Mayo and his family knew it.

"We're told the storm will hit us bad late on Thursday," said Mayo, the Scappoose native who plays linebacker for the Carolina Panthers. "We're watching the weather closely and getting prepared as best we can. We'll see how it goes."

Just when things were going well for Mayo, 25, who started at outside linebacker in the Panthers' season-opening 16-8 victory over Dallas last Sunday.

Even better than that, Mayo is a new father. His wife, Jordan, had their first child, Elijah, on July 20.

"There's nothing like (fatherhood)," Mayo said. "It's great, man. (Elijah) is healthy and growing like crazy. Jordan is doing great. She's a natural-born mother. She makes it easy on me. She lets me sleep at night. I'm thankful for that."

The newborn weighed eight pounds, nine ounces at birth.

"He looked like a monster when he came out so big," Mayo said with a laugh.

The Panthers sacked Dak Prescott six times and limited Dallas to 232 yards total offense — 60 in the first half. The Cowboys managed only 94 yards rushing.

"It was a great win and a good performance by the defense, just what you want to see out of the first game," Mayo said. "Our goal was to stop the run. Outside of a few QB scrambles, we did a good job of that. Our D-line had a heck of a game. They made it tough on Dallas all day. They were the heroes of our defense for sure."

The 6-2, 245-pound Mayo made just one tackle, playing about half of the defensive plays, and was on the punt and kickoff return units.

"I thought I had a solid performance," he said. "I have areas to improve, as does everyone. It went well."

The former Texas State standout drew the start because of the four-game suspension to regular starting outside linebacker Thomas Davis due to a performance-enhancing drugs violation. Davis, a three-time Pro Bowler in his 14th season with the team, is a long-time team captain and the franchise's leading career tackler.

"What happened with 'TD' is a bummer," Mayo said. "He's such a great guy, with tremendous character and integrity. Anybody who knows him understands it was a fluke accident. He wasn't trying to beat the system. That's unfortunate.

"We missed him a lot because he's a great leader. Everybody follows his lead. He sets the tone. At the same time, I'm excited for my opportunity to play linebacker. Any chance I get to step onto the field, I'm so grateful."

For a couple of years, Mayo wore his hair long and down his back a la Clay Matthews. In April, he cut off nearly a foot of hair and donated it to "Locks of Love," a nonprofit that uses it to create prosthetics for kids with long-term hair loss. It was the second — and likely last — time he has given his mane to the cause.

"Now that I have my hair short, I probably won't be doing that anymore," Mayo said. "I feel better with my hair short. It gets hot in the South. On top of that, I'm playing football. It is nice to have short hair, I'm not going to lie."

During Mayo's rookie season with Carolina, the Panthers made it to Super Bowl 50. Last season, they were 11-5 and lost to New Orleans in the wild-card round of the playoffs. Mayo isn't writing off Carolina's chances for another Super Bowl appearance at season's end.

"We have the pieces," he said. "Our locker room is feeling good about what we have going on. We had a great spring. We had a great training camp. If a guy goes down, we have to have somebody step up. That's the mentality we have. (Coach Ron) Rivera displays that as well.

"We all believe in each other. We're trying to focus on one game at a time, but we know we have the talent and cohesiveness to have something special."

Mayo is a likely starter in Carolina's 4-3 defense for the next three games until Davis' return.

"When 'TD' comes back, I'll be ready for my opportunities as a backup, or if they need me to step up at any linebacker position," Mayo said. "I'm going to continue to play special teams. I want to be a great teammate and help my team win games."

Mayo is in the fourth and final year of his contract with the Panthers.

"I would love to stay in Carolina," he said. "I've built great friendships. I love the coaching staff. I love the staff from top to bottom, and the entire organization.

"I've dug some roots here. We have a beautiful home. It's such a great city to live in. The people are nice. The culture is good. I've never been part of such a special team, and on top of that, a linebacker group where everyone is so close. We all have each other's back, pushing each other to get better. I would love to stay. We'll see what happens."

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