Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Homegrown Hero Mark Tauscher: From farm boy to Super Bowl champion


Dan Hansen


Published 4:00 p.m. CT Dec 21, 2021

GREEN BAY, WI – Thousands of Wisconsinites, especially sports fans, fondly remember Mark Tauscher for his college and professional football success.

Some remember Tauscher from the University of Wisconsin as a key blocker for Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, and member of winning Rose Bowl teams. Probably most remember him as the starting offensive right tackle for a decade with the Green Bay Packers, including much of the season that led to their win in Super Bowl XLV.

However, many remain unaware that Tauscher, born June 17, 1977, spent his first 13 years living – and working – on his family’s central Wisconsin dairy farm near Auburndale.

Speaking to approximately 150 attendees during the recent Alltech Dairy School at Lambeau Field, Tauscher was quick to credit his early years on the farm for helping him develop the teamwork and discipline that would later enable him to successfully meet the challenges of college and pro football.

“I think of the stuff I did on the farm that helped me realize the importance of teamwork, of sacrificing your own needs for the greater good,” he recalled. “If you’ve grown up on a farm you know there’s nothing but sacrifice.”

Tauscher’s first chore on the farm, about age 5, was to make sure the manure pit didn’t get plugged. “I don’t think there’s any industry that demands what farming does,” he emphasized.

He recalled the day he helped bale hay on his eighth birthday. After baling hay all day until 9 o’clock that night, he came home to not much of a birthday celebration. “When I complained, my dad said, ‘do you think the cows give a rip about when your birthday is,’” he related.

“Getting up early in the morning to lift weights, that’s nothing. Going through two-a-days in the heat is nothing. I baled hay, I picked rocks. When times got tough, I was fortunate to able to lean back on some of those experiences,” he stressed.

“My dad loved farming and sports, and always made the extra effort to get us to baseball and basketball games. My love of sports came from him. That combination of sports and farming has been a big part of my life.”

From high school to college

Tauscher lettered in football, baseball and basketball at Auburndale High School, earning three varsity letters in football and baseball along with two varsity letters in basketball. In football, he was a two-time All-Conference honoree, while earning Honorable Mention All-State and team MVP honors as a senior.

His basketball team competed at the state tournament in 1992-93, where, ironically, Tauscher caught the eye of a UW–Madison football scout.

"At that time, I was basically committed to going to the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point because no Division 1 schools had recruited me."

On Thursday morning there just happened to be a walk-on coordinator for the Badger football team at the game. “That coach came up to me and told me I moved well for a big body, and might be able to make it as a walk-on player with the football team.”

After meeting with Head Coach Barry Alvarez, Tauscher was invited to try to make the team as a walk-on.

“Getting noticed because of our high school basketball team was one of the most important moments in my life. Had I gone to Stevens Point, would I be here talking to you today, have had a professional career or be in the Packers’ Hall of Fame? No."

Tauscher made the team as a walk-on in 1995. “For me, going to Madison was like going to New York City. Making the transition to pass blocking on the Division 1 college level was hard,” he said. There were times he thought “this isn’t for me, but luckily I had coaches and others who told me to stick with it and give myself a chance.”

After seeing little action his first two years, Tauscher earned a letter in 1998 and became a starter at right tackle the following year. He was a key blocker for Ron Dayne’s 1999 Heisman season. 

After his fourth year playing football, Tauscher had earned his college degree, and planned to go to another school to get a teaching certificate. Then he was informed he had a fifth year of football eligibility, and was asked if he’d be willing to come back and fight for a starting spot.

“I couldn’t have said yes any quicker,” was his reply. “I just knew in my heart I had put in all the work and that I could play. Once I got the opportunity, I ran with it and our team had a ton of success.”

Transitioning to the pros

Even though both he and the team had a successful year, Tauscher never considered himself a candidate for the NFL draft. “Not once did I think I was going to play in the NFL,” he said. But one of his coaches said pro scouts were asking about him, and said, “I think if you want this you can do it.”

Another important moment in Tasucher’s life and football career came a few weeks later when he and other linemen were playing hacky sack with a football before practice. “We were standing in a circle kicking the ball, and if you miss the kick you got booted out,” he said.

On that day Packers’ General Manager Ron Wolf just happened to walk by and started watching this hacky sack routine.

The following spring Wolf drafted Tauscher in the seventh round, with the 224 overall pick in the draft. “I was eating lunch after one of the practices, when Ron Wolf came up to me and told me he drafted me because he saw the way I moved my feet during the game of hacky sack.”

Tauscher became a starter early in his rookie season, when Earl Dotson suffered a back injury at Buffalo. During the second game of the 2002 season, Tauscher suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL) and a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) that required surgery and kept him out of action for the rest of the season.

He made a successful comeback in 2003 and started every game until late in the 2008 season when he suffered another torn ACL. After the 2008 season Tauscher became an unrestricted free agent, and worked out for Kansas City,  but the Packers resigned him four games into the 2009 season because their offensive line was struggling to protect Aaron Rodgers. 

The Packers re-signed him again in 2010, and he started the first four games until a shoulder injury put him on injured reserve, effectively ending his football career.

Life after football

Tauscher was named Packers' 2008 Walter Payton Man of the Year, and voted Packers’ 2008 Ed Block Courage Award winner. He was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame on July 21, 2018. 

One of the things Tauscher feels led to his success was the friendships he forged both on and off the field in Green Bay. Together, he and two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Chad Clifton started 10 seasons together and blocked for a pair of MVP quarterbacks in Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.

In 2009, Tauscher married Sarah Helgeson. They have a son and daughter, and live near Madison. 

Tauscher has also turned his attention to broadcasting, providing commentary and analysis for the Badgers and Packers, and co-hosts a sports talk show on a Milwaukee radio station.

He also founded the Trifecta Foundation which stands for Tauscher's Reading Initiative for Every Child to Achieve. He found reading to be very challenging as a young child and credits a third-grade teacher and a Pizza Hut "Book It" program with helping build his confidence.

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