The truth is I have no clue. (Not true! See below) For the longest time I heard he was from West Virginia, though I knew that to be false — he’s from McKees Rocks, which at one time was very popular on the St. John’s campus.
Anyhow, for some odd reason I was long intrigued by the late Billy Mays and kind of followed things he did and said. His life really was quite a story and it’s downright sad to see it end when it did, when a guy who’d fought to be successful at something had reached an iconic status in an obscure trade almost by accident. So I read a lot about his life and far-too-early death — that’s another thing that happened when I was gone … famous people died — and kept hearing about his affiliation not with West Virginia, but with WVU.
Born William D. Mays in McKees Rocks, Pa., on July 20, 1958, he played football at West Virginia Universityand helped with his father’s waste-hauling business. A trip with a friend to Atlantic City, N.J., in 1983 led him to try selling products on the boardwalk, learning how to work a crowd from the old school barkers who filled that walkway.
(Anyone thing Billy D. Mays would have delivered fame far sooner? Works every time!) Well, there’s only one Mays I can find who played WVU football — not a good representation! Since he was 50, that puts him in the 1977-82 range. Can’t find him listed on any roster back then, either, though you’d have to figure he was a walk-on and perhaps had an inglorious and/or brief career that slipped through the cracks.
I’ll soldier on.
I emailed the writer of the linked story and asked how he knew Mays played at WVU. His reply:
I saw it reported in the Washington Post and Fortune magazine — he was a walk on linebacker. I asked him about it when I was interviewing him for my story and he confirmed. gotta admit, it was such a minor fact, i didn’t think to check with the university.