Michael Mayer, Isaiah Foskey give Notre Dame Football a pair of 2nd-round NFL Draft picks

Mike Berardino
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — Some moments are worth the wait.

Michael Mayer, the record-setting Notre Dame football tight end who slipped into the second round of the NFL Draft, hopes to reward the Las Vegas Raiders for making him the 35th overall selection on Friday night.

“I pride myself on being physical out there,” Mayer said on a conference call with Las Vegas reporters. “There’s no doubt about it. I like to put people in the dirt and I like to run over people.”

After a surprisingly fruitless Thursday night, when Utah’s Dalton Kincaid was the only tight end drafted, Mayer didn’t have to wait long on Friday. Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta went to the Detroit Lions at No. 34, and the Raiders moved up three spots to grab Mayer via a trade with the Indianapolis Colts.

Portal parade:Logan Diggs joins the transfer list out of Notre Dame football

Five picks later, the New Orleans Saints took defensive end Isaiah Foskey, Mayer’s fellow Notre Dame captain and consensus All-American.

Mar 3, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer (TE10) speaks to the press at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

According to, Mayer and Foskey are projected to sign four-year rookie contracts totaling more than $18 million combined. For Mayer, the projected value is $9.31 million, including a $3.77 million signing bonus; Foskey’s projected contract value is $8.73 million with $3.35 million as a signing bonus.

Connection to Dave Casper

Mayer becomes the eighth all-time Notre Dame product at his position to go in Round 2, joining Cole Kmet (2020), Troy Niklas (2014), Kyle Rudolph (2011), John Carlson (2008), Anthony Fasano (2006), Dave Casper (1974) and Jim Kelly (1964).

CANTON, UNITED STATES:  Pro Hall of Fame enshrinee Dave Casper (L), former Oakland Raiders tight end, knocks on the head of his bust as he poses with his presenter and former coach with the Oakland Raiders, John Madden (R) during the enshrinement ceremony 03 August, 2002 at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH.       AFP PHOTO/David Maxwell (Photo credit should read DAVID MAXWELL/AFP/Getty Images)

Casper, another No. 87 who played eight seasons for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, was a 2002 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee. Casper, 71, was the 45th overall pick by the Raiders after helping Notre Dame win the 1973 national title.  

Mayer, 6-foot-4 ½ and 249 pounds, quickly earned the nickname “Baby Gronk” (after NFL star Rob Gronkowski) upon making an immediate splash as a freshman. Raiders coach Josh McDaniels was an offensive assistant with the New England Patriots during Gronkowski’s heyday wearing No. 87.

Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels, shown during a Jan. 1, 2023 game.

“Coach McDaniels knows how to use tight ends and he loves tight ends,” Mayer said. “I think I’m going to fit very well into the offense. (The Raiders) have had so many good tight ends.”

A four-star recruit from Independence, Ky., a suburb of Cincinnati, Mayer went on to break nearly every significant program record for tight ends. A consensus first-team All-American and John Mackey Award finalist, Mayer finished with 180 receptions for 2,099 yards and 18 touchdowns in three seasons.

Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer (87) makes a catch for a touchdown against BYU during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

That production required Mayer to mesh with four different starting quarterbacks: Ian Book, Jack Coan, Tyler Buchner and Drew Pyne. The Raiders recently signed veteran Jimmy Garappolo as their new starting quarterback.

It was Pyne, in a 28-20 Shamrock Series win over Brigham Young, who connected 11 times with Mayer for 118 yards and two touchdowns last Oct. 8 at the Raiders’ Allegiant Stadium. Raiders owner Mark Davis was in attendance that day and had a brief exchange with Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman.

“The first thing I realized is how massive that stadium is,” Mayer said. “Being able to play home games there is going to be a very fun thing to do. The city, the fans, the vibe surrounding the city — it was fantastic. I got a little taste of it against BYU, so I’m happy I played there. I’m happy to make it my new home.”

Last summer Mayer, Foskey and Freeman combined for an elaborate video sendup of “The Hangover” film as part of the Shamrock Series jersey reveal. That was Mayer’s first visit to Las Vegas.

“That was cool,” Mayer said. “That was my first experience, trying to be an actor. That was the first time I got to see the city, drive around. I was with Coach Freeman and a couple of my teammates, which was really fun.”

Cameron Jordan as a Saints mentor

Foskey, originally projected as a Day 2 selection, is Notre Dame’s highest-drafted defensive lineman since Jerry Tillery went in the first round (28th overall) to the Los Angeles Chargers in 2019.

At 6-foot-5 and 264 pounds, Foskey considered entering the draft after 2021 but opted to return for a senior season at Notre Dame. Foskey ended up breaking Justin Tuck’s career sacks record, finishing with 26.5 in three-plus seasons.

Mar 2, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Notre Dame defensive lineman Isaiah Foskey (DL29)  participates in drills during the NFL combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the Saints, who took Clemson defensive tackle Bryan Bresee in the first round, Foskey will pair with 12-year veteran defensive end Cameron Jordan. The 2011 first-round pick from Cal has 115.5 career sacks, second to Von Miller among active NFL players.

“I wanted to be working with a vet like Cam Jordan,” Foskey said. “That’s a hall of famer-type of guy. I can learn from him. New Orleans was a great team for me. I have Cam Jordan right there.”

69. Cameron Jordan, DE, New Orleans Saints

Foskey, who grew up in Antioch, Calif., not far from the Berkeley campus, watched Friday night’s draft at home with his family in northern California. Freeman and Notre Dame defensive line coach Al Washington also were on hand, sharing the emotional celebration when Saints assistant general manager Jeff Ireland called Foskey with the news.

Over the past eight drafts (2016-23), Notre Dame has had 16 players selected in the top two rounds. Since 2010, the Irish have seen 26 players taken in either the first or second round, with 2015 being the lone interruption in that streak.  

Follow Notre Dame football writer Mike Berardino on Twitter @MikeBerardino.