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.

3rd TischaThomas 28
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.

But let’s not end the story there. Let’s focus instead on his physique. DeMayo’s gargantuan legs were the first things people noticed when he burst on the scene in 1991, so much so that he earned the nickname “Quadzilla.”

Johnnie jackson deadlift

3rd IFBB Mens Phys 8 Patrick Fulgham
His thighs were so thick in the outer and lower regions it looked like he was smuggling footballs under his skin. He was determined to not let his wheels overpower his upper body, but he refused to take the easy route of avoiding the squat rack. Instead, he trained legs as he always had while he toiled even harder to build a top half to match them. He nearly succeeded. Only his back lagged. In his front double biceps, his ginormous arms drew eyes from his legs. The story of Paul DeMayo is tragic in part because we, like he, never got to see how great his physique could’ve been. But what we did see was pretty damn amazing. FLEX