Panthers backup middle linebacker David Mayo occasionally goes to dinner with starting middle linebacker Luke Kuechly in Charlotte.
Kuechly gets recognized by everyone and Mayo by nearly no one, which he says he’s cool with.
Mayo also has no problem with the fact that his path to the starting lineup is blocked by two of the league’s best linebackers in Kuechly and Thomas Davis.
“Luke is obviously an outstanding player. We have tons of depth here at linebacker,” Mayo said. “But I see it as a huge opportunity to just learn from those guys. Learning from the best is only going to help me, and it’s only going to push me to get better than I would have if I had lesser players in front of me.”
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Mayo, a fifth-round pick in 2015, was a special teams player as a rookie. His 11 special teams tackles ranked third on the team.
He said he’s playing with more confidence this year, and he led the Panthers with eight tackles during their first exhibition last week at Baltimore. Mayo (6-foot-2, 245 pounda) is a big hitter whom linebackers coach Al Holcomb called a “thumper.”
“David is a physical football player. He’s a physical presence in the middle of our defense,” Holcomb said. “He’s done a really good job of improving his technique, using his hands, shedding blocks and he’s still learning the position.”
Mayo says he’s never wondered how things might be different if he’d been drafted by a team lacking in linebackers. And he’s OK if he spends this season primarily on special teams again.
“If I don’t get a single rep at linebacker this year and I’m only on special teams, I’m going to try to be the best special teams player,” he said. “Same goes if I get in at linebacker. I’m going to do my best to be the best linebacker when I’m out there.”