Sunday, September 1, 2019

Mike-Mayer Brothers

I've been thinking about putting together a complete set of football cards from the 1980s. As a youngster back then I didn't collect football cards and wasn't really into the sport, but living in New York I do remember the Jets being cool, what with Ken O'Brien, Al Toon, Wesley Walker, and Mark Gastineau and the New York Sack Exchange. And of course the other New York team, the Giants, would be Super Bowl champions thanks to exciting characters like Lawrence Taylor, Phil Simms, Mark Bavaro, Joe Morris, and coach Bill Parcells. Even without all of that, there are simply some great football card designs from the decade. 

While I was browsing through some online checklists a few weeks ago, thinking about which set I might go for, I came across an interesting surname:

Mike-Mayer (pronounced MICK-uh-myur)

I wasn't familiar with the name, but there are probably more names I'm unfamiliar with than names I'd recognize, so I didn't think much of it. Soon I was opening the next page of the checklist and scrolling down, looking for any names that did seem familiar. That's when I was caught a little bit by surprise.

I saw that Mike-Mayer surname again.

My first guess was that it might be a League Leader card, or a Highlight card, or an In Action card of the same Mike-Mayer guy.

It wasn't.

It was just a standard base card. And this time the first name was Steve. I was pretty sure I saw a different first name for the Mike-Mayer card on the previous page, so I went back. Sure enough, on that previous page I found Nick Mike-Mayer.


Even more fascinating?

It turns out one was born in Budapest, Hungary. The other was born in Bologna, Italy.

And even still more fascinating?

They were both kickers!

Here they are, in all their 1980 Topps glory:

I always enjoy brother stories in professional sports, and featured a really good one here on the blog a few months ago that involved not two brothers, but three.

So, how do two brothers from Europe both become kickers in the NFL? Let's allow the cartoon on the back of Steve's 1978 card to give us a clue:

Ah. Good genes. That helps explain it.

Their soccer-playing father first played in Hungary, where Steve was born. To escape communism, the family left the country for Italy, where Nick was born. Eventually they emigrated to the United States. New Jersey, to be precise

From there, both brothers took the college football route to the NFL (Temple for Nick, Maryland for Steve). Nick was selected in the 10th round of the 1973 draft, and then Steve went in the 3rd round in 1975. Here's a quick summary:

  • 10 NFL seasons, from 1973 to 1982
  • 96.6% extra points made (226 of 234)
  • 1973 Pro Bowl
  • Career-long FG of 52 yards

  • 6 NFL seasons, from 1975 to 1980
  • 92% extra points made (161 of 175)
  • 1975 NFL All-Rookie Team
  • Career-long FG of 54 yards

The brothers played against each other six times. On October 12, 1980, when Nick was with the Bills, he made a 49-yard field goal against Steve's Colts, setting a record for the longest field goal made in a game where brothers kicked against each other.*

Dad must have been proud!

I'd guess it's not too often that kickers get a storyline in the pregame show, but whenever these guys kicked against each other it must have been a feature. 

All in all, a really cool story, and I'm sure I've only scratched the surface here. I'd love to see an interview with the two brothers just talking about their experiences—coming to the States, going to college, and playing in the NFL against each other.

Back to the original topic, though:

I'm still not sure what 1980s set to go for. The 1982 design is a classic and might be my favorite, but it's a whopping 528 cards and boasts the Lawrence Taylor, Ronnie Lott, and Anthony Munoz rookie cards, as well as a second-year Joe Montana. 

The 1983 design is cool in a DeLorean kind of way, and is more manageable at 396 cards. The notable rookies (Jim McMahon, Mike Singletary, Marcus Allen) are a bit more affordable, too.

1987 and 1988 also seem to be affordable options, and the designs are still fun and very fitting for the decade.

Any suggestions? Feel free to share in the comment section.

*The Bahr brothers and the Gogolak brothers also kicked against each other in NFL games.


  1. I don't do football and probably never will, but the set with the green border with yellow stripes I think is pretty cool looking. I'm not sure what year it is.

    1. Good suggestion, Billy. That's the 1986 set. Quite a popular design, and it features some attractive rookie cards (Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Reggie White, Boomer Esiason, and Bruce Smith to name a few).

  2. Yeah, '86 would be the sentimental pick for me too... had a few random cards from it when I was a kid before I really started collecting highlighted by Marcus Allen and a Bernie Kosar rookie.

    1. Two votes for 1986. I might have to start saving my pennies for that Jerry Rice rookie.

  3. Man, I'm not a football collector but I never heard of these guys and I find them so interesting. Great work uncovering this, and awesome post!

    1. Right? You figure you'd have heard at least something about these guys, even if their careers were over a little bit before our time. Thanks very much for the compliment as well. It was fun doing the research for this one.

  4. Another great story! I hadn't heard of either of them, so this was all new to me. As for which set to collect, well, I don't know, most of the 80's sets are pretty cool, so you really can't go wrong.

    1. Thanks Jon! And I think you're right about football sets from the '80s. They're all pretty cool. I'm still not sure which one to try to complete.

    2. 1981 to 1984 was a great 4-year stretch of Topps football cards

    3. Agreed, Big League. I kind of like the 1985 set as well, because it's quite different with the horizontal layout and big bold text framed by a black border. But I don't think that would be my first choice. Still mulling things over.