"He was more mature than some of the guys who were two, three, four years older than him," McMunn said. "He had good discipline to begin with. We were able to really build on that with him."
While attending college, Paris struggled to make ends meet as he traveled to wrestling performances. His brother, Steve, who had already graduated from WVU, paid for Michael Paris' rent for a year to enable him to continue wrestling.
"My brother is definitely another unsung hero in the story of Michael Paris," he said.
In 2010, Paris was invited to an open casting call for industry giant World Wrestling Entertainment. He was among 60 wrestlers selected to try out from among thousands of applicants. He didn't make WWE's final cut and was told he wasn't quite ready.
Paris started to second-guess himself. At 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, he thought, perhaps he was too small for the big time. Meanwhile, the friends who attended advertising school with him graduated in May 2011, while he was still a few credits short.
"That's when I was like, man, there ain't nothing going right," Paris said. "I failed at wrestling. I still haven't graduated college. Is there ever going to be a light at the end of the tunnel?"
Less than a month later, there was.
He got a phone call from a TNA representative asking him to come to a tryout. Nashville, Tenn.-based TNA's top wrestling talent includes veteran wrestler and actor Hulk Hogan.
Paris still doesn't know how the organization got his phone number. He was told a TNA talent representative saw a video of him on YouTube.
He survived his tryout, which was broadcast live on Spike TV, and hasn't slowed down since.
In addition to his weekly trips to Orlando, this year Paris has wrestled in India and Mexico City, along with trips to Canada and places like Chicago and Phoenix.
But there was still that issue of college. When TNA signed him, Paris had been at WVU five years. Despite the travel challenges, he got it done, taking one class each semester over his final two years in order to graduate.
When his body won't let him wrestle anymore, Paris not only can turn to his advertising degree, he can try spinning records. He's been training since June to become a disc jockey, a dream that morphed from an interest in music before he realized he had no talent singing or playing guitar.
"I'm not unrealistic about it," he said. "I could break my leg tomorrow wrestling. That would be the end of my career. Without a college career to fall back on, I don't know what I'd be doing with my life."
When it comes to importance, mentor and family friend Lavell said there's no comparing the pecking order of a diploma to a wrestling career.
"Graduation. Most definitely," he said.