Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 27, 2020

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 14 of 55 NOV. 27, 2020 15 tive in interview settings, fifth-year senior quarterback Ian Book couldn't help but light up when asked about Mayer and the professional mentality already displayed by him. "He's really good," Book said. "… He's fun to play with. If the ball is in the air, he's the guy that's going to go make a play on it. Got a lot of confidence in him. … He's going to play football for a long time." Beyond the physical attributes, the mental comportment that belies Mayer's youth is just as valuable. Early in the conquest of No. 1 Clem- son, a motion penalty at the Tigers 1-yard line by Mayer and a misplayed pass helped limit the Irish to field goals. A rookie in such a situation of- ten goes into the tank, but the staff kept him in for 67 of the 82 plays on offense while he shared a team high in receptions (five for 67 yards) and con- tinued his effectiveness as a blocker. If there is a "freshman wall" for Mayer, he's knocked that over as well. "For players in their freshman year to continue to ascend, there has to be a mental performance component that is different than most freshmen," head coach Brian Kelly said. "And he has that. When he came over after the red-zone [mistake], he handled himself incredibly well. "He didn't throw a helmet, didn't throw a tantrum. He just started breathing, talking to himself in the manner that, 'I'm going to make that play next time when I'm given that opportunity again.' "He just handles himself like some- body who has been in our program for more than one year. It's very unique." Mayer propelled Covington Catholic to a state title as the tight end and mid- dle linebacker, but it was his overall leadership, poise and unequaled work ethic that set the tone among everyone. Covington Catholic head coach Ed- die Eviston attributes that to an up- bringing that included grandfather Dick Maile leading LSU basketball three straight years in scoring and re- bounding from 1962-65, father Andy playing baseball at Ohio University, a cousin, Luke Maile, who's been a Major League Baseball catcher for five years, and brother A.J., now a quarterback at Miami (Ohio). "He's never been the guy who's about the limelight or the attention," Eviston said. "He always handled it with grace — and he's handling it the same way now. With the background his family has, he is a student of the game and just a worker. "He was never one to try to get out of anything, never one that needed a break — and we asked a lot out of him. The more we asked out of him, the more he responded. He never got overwhelmed, never an attitude of, 'I just want to protect myself so I can move on.' It was always, 'Coach, whatever you need, I'll lead the way.'" Even as a freshman, if necessary. ✦ Best (Previous) Freshman Tight Ends After only seven games, Michael Mayer's team-high 20 receptions were already the second most by a Notre Dame freshman tight end. Who were the most productive? 5t. Alizé Mack (2015) and Jabari Holloway (1997) When starter Durham Smythe suffered an injury in the second game of 2015 that sidelined him the remainder of the regular season, Mack stepped in and finished with 13 receptions for 190 yards, highlighted by clutch fourth-quarter 35- and 45-yard receptions in comeback wins versus USC and Temple during a 10-1 start. In head coach Bob Davie's debut season, Holloway made six starts, played 160:10 and caught eight passes for 144 yards (18.0 yards per catch) and a score, with several important receptions that helped defeat No. 11 LSU and No. 22 West Virginia. 4. Ken MacAfee (1974) The reigning national champs had to replace the graduated All-American Dave Casper, and by mid- season the 6-4, 245-pound freshman MacAfee took over and excelled as a receiver and blocker. The future Walter Camp Award winner and College Football Hall of Fame inductee finished with 14 catches for 146 yards and one score as the Irish finished No. 6 in the Associated Press poll in Ara Parseghian's final season as head coach. 3. Dean Masztak (1978) Following the graduation of MacAfee, the freshman became a favorite Joe Montana target. He made vital grabs in fourth-quarter comeback victories against Pitt (three for 47 yards) and Hous- ton (three for 49 yards) in the Cotton Bowl, and snatched four passes for 82 yards in a heartbreaking 27-25 loss at USC, the co-national champ. His 16 receptions averaged a robust 17.8 yards. 2. Derek Brown (1988) The Parade National Player of the Year was so gifted that head coach Lou Holtz moved incumbent senior tight end and tri-captain Andy Heck to left tackle. Brown made an instant impact, playing 206:38 and earning honorable mention All-America notice from Sporting News. His first two receptions resulted in touchdowns, and in the 31-30 victory over No. 1 Miami he made crucial grabs of 26 and 20 yards. Brown finished with 14 catches for 220 yards (15.7 yards per catch) and three touchdowns, capped by 47- and 23-yard receptions in the Fiesta Bowl win over West Virginia that set up two Irish scores en route to the national title. 1. Kyle Rudolph (2008) When Mike Ragone suffered a season-ending knee injury in August and Will Yeatman was suspended, Rudolph remarkably started all 13 games and played 343:38, a Notre Dame freshman record at any position. His 28 catches (two touchdowns) for 340 yards are both Irish freshman records at tight end, but particu- larly notable was his durability while also having to serve as a blocker and play almost every single snap on offense. He concluded with four catches for 78 yards in a 49-21 romp over Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl. — Lou Somogyi Through the first seven games, Mayer leads the Irish with 20 receptions (for 235 yards and two touchdowns) and also has impressed with his physicality as a blocker and runner after the catch. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Nov. 27, 2020