SOUTH BEND, Ind. — This being Halloween weekend, it seems fitting to consider the most fearsome characters to stalk across the new Peacock streaming service this fall.
First prize doesn’t necessarily go to Michael Myers, the indestructible monster of “Halloween Kills,” the latest entry in a 43-year-old franchise of fright films. Judging from reviews from fallen foes and close associates alike, Michael Mayer may actually be the scariest dude to appear on the nascent service.
It was the hulking tight end from northern Kentucky, after all, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the final minute of Notre Dame’s season-saving 32-29 win over Toledo in the home opener.
That event was streamed on Peacock, but Notre Dame Stadium has been mock-screaming at Mayer’s exploits since the day he walked into the eerie, socially distanced venue as a redshirt freshman in 2020.
It didn’t take long for the chilling sounds of the “Halloween” theme to accompany Mayer’s receptions — a Jumbotron gimmick that caught on immediately.
“I’m fine with it,” Mayer, who faces unranked North Carolina on Halloween eve, said earlier this season. “I think it’s a funny little thing to do. It’s cool. The stadium gets pumped up about it.”
So do his buddies.
“The first time they played that, I got like 50 texts after the game,” Mayer said. “That was pretty cool. Yeah, that was fun. It was exciting.”
And, truth be told, probably more than a little intimidating for opponents who were already sweating the prospect of facing a future first-round NFL draft pick. Mayer (pronounced “Mayor”) doesn’t profess to be an aficionado of Michael Myers or Laurie Strode, Jamie Lee Curtis’ grim-faced heroine in the movies. He has barely even seen any of the dozen films that have grossed nearly $750 million worldwide.
“When I was younger, maybe a little bit, but not recently,” Mayer said. “I know of it.”
As with Myers, it takes more than a flesh wound to slow down the most dangerous player on the Irish offense. Mayer strained his left groin/adductor muscle before the season, but that didn’t stop him from playing the first five games without a whisper of complaint.
Even after Mayer pulled up lame on a long pass during the second half of a home loss to Cincinnati on Oct. 2, he was insisting he’d be in the lineup the next week at Virginia Tech. When he was still limping in warmups, Notre Dame’s medical and coaching staff made the prudent decision to hold him out another week.
The potential All-American wasn’t giving up without a fight. What about, he asked, just playing on third downs or in the red zone?
“He wanted to go,” coach Brian Kelly said. “He’s just a warrior.”
Mayer had five catches for 54 yards last week against USC — “The Return of Michael Mayer” — with four of those resulting in first downs. After Mayer broke Kyle Rudolph’s 12-year-old school record for catches and yards by a freshman tight end, his 37 receptions and 414 receiving yards easily lead the 11th-ranked Irish.
He hasn’t found the end zone since his game-winner against Toledo, but that’s more a product of the vigilante mob that chases him whenever Notre Dame gets close to scoring.
“I mean, he’s ridiculous,” quarterback Jack Coan said. “He’s an amazing player. I’d heard a lot about him before I came here, but he’s exceeded my expectations. You put that ball anywhere around him, he’s going to go get it and probably make somebody miss, too.”
Even the rare drops Mayer has experienced, including two in the season opener at Florida State, only cause his slasher-movie intensity to boil over. And woe unto the foolish foe who tries to dive at Mayer’s lower legs trying to trip up the 6-4, 251-pounder.
Mayer has already shown Madden-level moves in sidestepping and hurdling defenders. Call it “The Revenge of Michael Mayer.”
“Mike is as intense and as competitive a guy as I’ve been around,” said Tommy Rees, the former Irish QB turned offensive coordinator. “He is wired in a way that is unbelievable. He plays angry, and in the best way possible. Mike’s a special dude.”
Kind of scary, too.