Two years ago, the University of Cincinnati football team traveled to South Bend, Indiana, to take on Notre Dame. Both teams stood at 4-0 and were ranked in the top 10 in the nation. Mayer and the Fighting Irish were the overwhelming favorites, despite being ranked lower than the Bearcats. As Mayer did to most defenses he faced in college, he sliced up Cincinnati's secondary to the tune of eight catches and 93 yards.
However, Tucker got the last laugh in the outing. The Bearcats slot receiver's 27-yard touchdown grab helped his team to a 24-13 victory. Following the upset, Cincinnati went undefeated in the regular season to win the AAC Championship and become the first – and still only – Group of Five conference team to make the College Football Playoff.
Now as Raiders teammates, Tucker still heckles Mayer over that game.
"He never stops talking about it. He absolutely never stops talking about it," joked Mayer. "It is what it is. That's what I always say to him. It's like, 'What do you want me to do about it now, man?' It's in the past. I tried to do everything I could. ... That UC loss sits with me hard because my dad is from Cincinnati, I grew up right across the river. I wanted to beat them so bad and they killed us. It was not fun for a while."
After the triumphant win, or devastating loss if you ask Mayer, the two became formally acquainted in the pre-draft process, meeting through mutual friend Josh Whyle, who was teammates with Tucker and is now a tight end for the Tennessee Titans. The three of them trained together for the NFL Combine at the same facility in Cincinnati. Mayer and Tucker's friendship continued to bud in Indianapolis during the annual scouting spectacle.
As fate would have it, the Raiders traded up in the second round to select Mayer and did the same the next round to select Tucker. With a little bit of chemistry already in place, they decided to room together in Las Vegas for several months until the end of Training Camp.
While Mayer called out Tucker for constantly being distracted by his cell phone and Tucker was not a huge fan of Mayer's loud snoring, the two became closer through the process and continue to lean on each other through their rookie campaigns.
"He's hilarious. How he walks around is so heavy," Tucker said of Mayer as a roommate. "He walks as if something is in his way when there's literally nothing there. He just plops down and I'm just like, 'Bro, can you chill?'"
"He's a good roommate. He's a good guy," Mayer said in response. "Understanding, we both go to bed at the same time which is nice. When you get a roommate that goes to bed an hour later than you, that's no fun. We both make sure we're up in the morning, I think we're just both good roommates for each other, but I will be honest, I think we became better friends when we stopped being roommates. Just because now we only see each other in the facility and it's good to see him with us living on our own."
As their bond grows, so does their production on the field. Mayer has started the last four games for the Raiders, leading the team in receptions and receiving yards in the Week 6 game against the Patriots. Additionally, he scored the second-highest receiving grade (89.1) of any tight end in Week 6 from Pro Football Focus (min. two catches).
"Mike did a lot of things in the passing game and running game, like we discussed back in previous weeks," said offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi. "His role is growing, his production is growing, and I've seen a player who's gained a little confidence from the production and feels himself kind of give some production in terms of statistics. ... He still has a long way to go and he's aware of that, but he's a player that gets better every week."
Lombardi also had positive things to share about Tucker, who has been seeing his fair share of snaps at slot receiver. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, he clocked 21.11 mph on a 34-yard run against the Buffalo Bills in Week 2. He also completed the longest pass play of the season for the Raiders, with a 48-yard grab on third down from Brian Hoyer against the Patriots.
"Jakobi Meyers was the first person to go get Tre Tucker after that big play, which is really cool to see because he saw it in preseason and in practice," said Lombardi. "Now he's happy for him that the hard work is kind of paying off a little bit here and there."
The rookie duo will have another chance this Sunday to build on their collective momentum. While they'll be in an hostile road environment at Solider Field, it doesn't seem that the moment will be overwhelming for either of them. It will be another Sunday for the Raiders' new receiving threats, playing hard and enjoying each other's company.
"It's kind of cool when you go out there and I just dap him up and say, 'Hey, what's up bro,'" said Tucker. "It's been pretty cool and he's been doing really good. I'm excited to see him keep progressing."
Head inside Intermountain Health Performance Center as the Silver and Black prepare for their Week 7 matchup against the Chicago Bears.