Blue and Gold Illustrated

June/July 2023

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

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30 JUNE/JULY 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TYLER HORKA AND PATRICK ENGEL M ichael Mayer has every rea- son to have a chip on his shoulder now, even if he didn't want to admit the presence of one after a long wait during the first round turned into a short one 24 hours later. Good thing there's room for a whole bag of them regardless. The former Notre Dame tight end wasn't the first tight end taken in the 2023 NFL Draft. He wasn't the sec- ond, either. At long last, the 6-4½, 249-pound bruiser was the third. Several analysts dubbed him the best tight end in the draft. Several teams didn't see it that way. The Las Vegas Raiders finally did, and they traded up three spots — and gave up a fifth-round choice in the process — to take him at No. 35 overall in the second round. He will sign a four-year rookie contract worth $9.3 million. Mayer glossed over the chip on the shoulder stuff. He got right into the nitty gritty instead. "The first thing is the tradition with the Las Vegas Raiders," Mayer said. "They've had so many good tight ends. There is no doubt about that. They know how to use tight ends. "Coach [Josh] McDaniels knows how to use tight ends, and he loves tight ends. So, I think I'm going to fit very well into the offense." Mayer is going to fit very well into his new surroundings, too. He knows them well. Mayer became Notre Dame's all-time leader in career and single-game recep- tions while reeling in 11 passes for 118 yards and 2 touchdowns at the Raiders' Allegiant Stadium in a 28-20 victory over BYU in the Irish's annual Shamrock Series game last October. There are more touchdowns to come at a place Mayer fell in love with in- stantly. "I think the first thing I realized is how immaculate that stadium is," Mayer said. "Being able to play home games there is going to be a very, very fun thing to do." It's not about glitz and glamor for Mayer, though. For Notre Dame play- ers, it rarely is. Ever endured a South Bend winter? They're not playing golf in January in Northern Indiana like they are in the Las Vegas desert. They're in- side the Irish Athletics Center working on their game with snow falling outside. Less than four minutes into Mayer's Zoom press conference call with Las Vegas reporters, he was already talking about offensive installs and "playing his best ball." Five minutes later, he said he likes to "put people in the dirt." There was a whole lot of that in South Bend the last three years. Mayer's best ball at Notre Dame, meanwhile, was better than that of any tight end that ever came before him. His 180 receptions, 2,099 receiv- ing yards and 18 touchdown grabs are all program highs for a player at his position. That includes Dave Casper, who became a Pro Football Hall of Famer largely for what he did within the Raiders' organization. Casper was a Super Bowl (XI) champion and a five-time Pro Bowl selection (four with the Raiders). All told, Mayer is the 26th Notre Dame tight end to be drafted, more than any other college program. He is the highest-drafted Irish tight end since Tyler Eifert went No. 21 over- all in 2013. He is the fourth to hear his name called in the last five years, join- ing Alizé Mack (seventh round, 2019), Cole Kmet (second round, 2020) and Tommy Tremble (third round, 2021). On the surface, Mayer is the Raid- ers' replacement for the departed Dar- ren Waller. The franchise shipped him off to the New York Giants in return for a third-round pick in March. But there are other tight ends on the ros- ter, of course, and rookies seldom walk through the door and earn starting sta- tus right away. It's difficult enough to do that in college. For reference, Mayer did. He had 42 catches for 450 yards and 2 touchdowns as a freshman in 2020. He worked well in tandem with Trem- ble, now with the Carolina Panthers, that year. The Raiders have veterans OJ Howard and Austin Hooper on the ros- ter. Mayer is a blend of both of them. He is a proven commodity in the passing game like Howard and can in-line block like Hooper. But can he do it all as a pro- fessional right away? Pro Football Focus listed Mayer, who went to the Raiders with the 35th overall pick in the second round, among its 11 big- gest steals of the 2023 NFL Draft. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS MICHAEL MAYER THE RAIDER Las Vegas stops Notre Dame tight end's slide early in second round of draft

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