Tuesday, February 28, 2012
February 25, 2012
Written by Tim Froberg
NEW LONDON — With no scholarship offers, Mark Tauscher decided to play Division III football at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
But a different sport altered his future and started a path that led Tauscher to more than a decade of playing for the Green Bay Packers.
Tauscher's Auburndale basketball team advanced to the 1995 WIAA state boys' basketball tournament in Madison. The Apaches lost to Oostburg, the eventual Division 3 state champion, but a recruiter who worked with the UW football team, Pat O'Conner, liked the fluid movements of the 6-foot-3, 280-pound Tauscher. He urged Badgers coach Barry Alvarez to give him a chance as a walk-on.
Tauscher was ready for the opportunity and ran with it.
Meeting opportunities, establishing self-confidence and developing a strong work ethic were among the messages the former Packers offensive tackle shared Thursday morning with the New London High School Future Farmers of America Club.
"I always try and tell kids that you never know when your opportunity is going to come, so do the right things to be ready for it," Tauscher said. "Had our high school basketball team not been good enough to make state, I probably wouldn't have been here today talking to these kids."
Tauscher retired from the NFL after the 2010 season. He spent 11 years with the Packers — 10 as a starter — and was a reliable, rock-solid player at right tackle, protecting franchise quarterbacks Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
A no-frills, regular guy with a sharp mind and a quick wit, Tauscher keeps busy with speaking engagements, while overseeing his TRIFECTA (Tauscher's Reading Initiative for Every Child to Achieve) foundation and raising a family in the Madison area.
The 34-year-old said retirement from football has been an adjustment.
"This first year was a tough transition," he said. "You never want to stop playing, but time catches up to you. I have a lot of ideas and possibilities, but to be honest, I haven't quite figured out what I'm going to do next. Right now, I'm just enjoying the little things. I have a 15-month-old son (Max) and he's a riot."
Tauscher's presentation was part of National FFA Week, and he could relate to the high school students he spoke to. Tauscher grew up on a farm near Auburndale and was an FFA member.
"His presentation was great," said Erika Fleming, a New London senior and an FFA officer. "It's good to hear from someone who has been in FFA and who has achieved so much. Most kids don't appreciate or understand what FFA is like. They think it's kind of old-fashioned, but it really isn't. So, it's really cool to hear someone so modern talk to us."
Tauscher answered a variety of questions from the students and hung around afterwards to sign autographs.
Some of his best responses were:
On whom he most preferred blocking for, Favre or Rodgers:
"I always tell people, (the Badgers') Brooks Bollinger, because we ran the ball all the time. I don't know. Both were great. Aaron is probably the best quarterback in the game. And although Brett's time has passed, you haveto remember where this franchise was before he got here. You're talking about 20-some years of great quarterbacking for the Green Bay Packers, so I think we've all been spoiled a little."
On his toughest player to block:
"I'd say Michael Strahan. He was not only strong and talented, but he really understood the game. I really respected how he played."
On closing his career as part of the 2011 Super Bowl championship team:
"I can't tell you how exciting it was to reach the pinnacle like that. I think it would have been even sweeter had I been in the game, but to be out there celebrating with confetti raining down and your family there, I just can't tell you how fortunate I am."
On his welcome-to-the-NFL moment:
"It was my first year and Reggie White had come out of retirement to play for Carolina. I was a rookie who didn't know much about anything and there he was lining up across from me. I was doing a pretty good job of blocking him, but at one point my hands hit his face mask. I can't do his voice justice, but he says to me in this deep, gravelly voice: 'Son, get your hands out of my face.' I was like, 'Yes, sir.' ''
On his toughest loss with the Packers:
"There were three of them: the loss to the Giants in the 2007 NFC championship game, the fourth-and-26 loss to Philadelphia (in the 2003 playoffs) and losing to the Rams (45-17) in the 2001 playoffs. Brett (Favre) had six interceptions that day. It was a complete disaster. That was the worst beat-down I've been a part of."
On longtime Packers receiver Donald Driver:
"He's a great player and an even better person. I always felt I had in common with him because we both entered the NFL as seventh-round picks."
On team chemistry in the NFL:
"That's why they pay head coaches so much. You get 53 guys in a locker room and you've got 53 different personalities. If you have 53 hotheads, you're going to have a rough stretch."
On weight-training advice for high school students:
"Having a great bench press is good, but I'd say work more on your legs and your core. I'll take a kid who can squat a truck over someone with a huge bench press."