Anyone who was following bodybuilding in the ’90s remembers the ground-shaking impact Paul DeMayo made. But they probably forget he did so entirely as an amateur. The Massachusetts native rocketed to prominence in 1991, beating Kevin Levrone to win the Jr. Nationals (at 23) and then finishing third behind Levrone and Flex Wheeler at that year’s Nationals (ahead of Ronnie Coleman and Chris Cormier). It took him three more tries (and years) to secure pro status, but DeMayo’s legend, like his physique, grew. In winning the 1994 NPC Nationals, the 27-year-old was 255 lean pounds at 5'10". He had enough size to hang with anyone.
Well, almost. DeMayo made his pro debut at the 1995 Mr. Olympia, where his definition lagged behind his density, and the lineup was stacked. He finished 12th. He placed similarly in three Grand Prix contests the weekend after the O, and then that was it. His entire pro career spanned eight days—a period during which he turned 28. Though it seemed he was just getting started, he was already done. For the next decade, DeMayo battled inner demons. He served two years in prison. He drifted in and out of jobs. And on June 2, 2005—at an age, 37, when other bodybuilders are still in their primes—he died of a heroin overdose.