Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 27, 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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14 NOV. 27, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI A bout 99.99 percent of the time, even the slightest mention of a college freshman tight end in the same breath with the NFL's top player at the position the past decade, Rob Gronkowski, would be classified as sheer lunacy. Welcome to the 0.01 percent with Notre Dame freshman Michael Mayer. Just five games into the 6-4½, 249-pound Mayer 's college career, longtime ESPN NFL analyst Todd McShay already tagged him as the most talented Fighting Irish player on offense. Not even fifth-year seniors on the roster guffaw at the "Baby Gronk" sobriquet he received from local sportscasters at Independence, Ky., where Mayer became a top-40 na- tional prospect at Covington Catholic (the No. 87 he dons, like Gronkowski, was just coincidence and available when he was a sophomore). And why would they when dur- ing the 7-0 start he paced the team in receptions (20 for 235 yards and two scores), breaking tackles, stiff-arming defenders for extra yardage on one play, hurdling them on another to keep the ball-control attack moving — while also imposing his will as a blocker. The "eye test" reveals he already would not look out of place at an NFL training camp. "Baby Gronk — he's a physical player," said fifth-year senior left tackle Liam Eichenberg, a potential first- or second-day NFL pick him- self. "That's what separates him from a lot of guys on the team. He sets a tone, doesn't shy away from hitting anyone. You can see that when he catches the ball on the run." "Just seeing him out there making plays is incredible," fifth-year senior defensive end Ade Ogundeji added. "He's only scratching the surface. He does everything the right way. He comes into the meetings right away, on time, he's just a great guy. "He plays physical at the point of attack and he can really go up there and make grabs … he's going after the ball every single time he's out there, and that's really important for a person at his position." Typically reserved and conserva- ROOKIE RAMPAGE Freshman tight end Michael 'Baby Gronk' Mayer is physically and mentally beyond his years

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