GREEN BAY – Mark Tauscher spent most of his childhood Sundays doing chores with his father, Denny, on their family farm and listening to the call of Jim Irwin and Max McGee on the Packers Radio Network.
While the 1980s were a turbulent time during the franchise’s illustrious history, it was during those broadcasts the future University of Wisconsin and Packers right tackle gained his love for the sport.
Roughly 30 years later, those are the small moments Tauscher harkened back to following Tuesday’s announcement that the Auburndale, Wis., native’s 11-year NFL career will be encapsulated with an induction into the Packers Hall of Fame in 2018, alongside longtime teammate Ryan Longwell
Denny passed away in 2013, but was on hand for virtually all of Tauscher’s games at Lambeau Field from 2000-10. He was his son’s first coach and even set the table for Tauscher’s future career in sports broadcasting as a sportswriter himself for the Marshfield News-Herald and on WDLB radio delivering his weekly Packer Report.
“When I got the call, that was the first thing that hit me was how emotional for me it (will be with) my dad,” said Tauscher, who’s now a contributor to the Packers Radio Network himself. “I would not be in this position without him. All the time and effort he gave me in sports and junior high and everything else. … It’s a bummer he’s not going to be able to be here, but I’m sure he’s looking down pretty happy today.”
A former walk-on at Wisconsin, Tauscher wound up blocking for Ron Dayne during his Heisman Trophy season in 1999 and became the Packers’ seventh-round draft choice a year later.
To this day, he still remembers the first time he walked into the Packers’ locker room inside Lambeau Field. It was the same stadium he and a friend once snuck their way into following a training-camp practice.
“Being from Wisconsin and watching the Super Bowl teams, you walk in and you see Franky Winters, (Brett) Favre, Antonio Freeman, there’s a list and it’s kind of a deer-in-the-headlights-type of feeling,” Tauscher said. “You go out there and all of a sudden reality hits you pretty quickly when you have Vonnie Holliday rushing against you and you’re trying to block Santana Dotson.”
While it took two years for Tauscher to see the field at Wisconsin, his baptism into the NFL didn’t take nearly as long. He was pushed onto the field in only his second regular-season game after starting right tackle Earl Dotson exited at Buffalo with a back injury.
Marco Rivera, the Packers’ starting right guard from 1998-2004, looked at Tauscher when he entered the game and said, “All right, Big T. Let’s go.” Tauscher proceeded to start each of the next 132 regular-season games he played in.
“When I look back on it, I was really fortunate that opportunity came really quickly, and then I was ready for the opportunity when it came. Next thing you know, it’s 20 years later and 132 starts,” Tauscher said. “It really was that first Buffalo game and thinking after the first or second practice that it’s great to be up here, but in order to be sustainable, you have to go out there and get the job done. That mentality is how I looked at it.”
Tauscher became a pillar on the offensive line with two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Chad Clifton, whose 12-year career in Green Bay was capped with an induction into the Packers Hall of Fame last year. While Tauscher sustained a season-ending injury in 2010, the two played together on the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV championship team.
They also were part of an offensive line that paved the way for club records in rushing (2,558 yards) and average per carry (5.0) in 2003, and a franchise record for fewest sacks allowed (14) in 2004.
The best part for Tauscher is he was able to do it all in front of his family, friends and his father, who will be looking down on him during the 48th Packers Hall of Fame Induction Banquet on Saturday, July 21, 2018.
“It was really cool being from here and being able to have family and friends, my dad obviously, at every home game to watch you play,” Tauscher said. “That’s a luxury a lot of guys don’t have. That was another thing that was cool about playing for your hometown team.”