GREEN BAY – Forty-one offensive linemen were selected during the three days of the 2013 NFL Draft, making it one of the largest classes in the draft’s history. Yet, Lane Taylor’s phone never rang.
The 6-foot-3, 324-pound guard had the credentials. Taylor started 47 of his 50 collegiate games at right guard for Oklahoma State and was a unanimous first-team All-Big 12 selection by the coaches his senior year.
After listening to 254 names called off, Taylor and his agent, Matt Striegel, started working the phones. In the end, Taylor had to make a decision between comparable college free-agent contracts with Green Bay and Cincinnati.
He chose the Packers.
“My agent was saying, ‘If you can go to Green Bay, it’ll look good on your resume,’” Taylor said. “I mean you’re a free agent. You never know what’s going to happen. If Green Bay likes you, you’ll get another shot if something happens.”
As it turned out, Taylor would have been safe with a one-way ticket. A little more than four years since that conversation, the Packers rewarded their starting left guard with a contract extension Monday to remain in Green Bay for the foreseeable future.
The announcement comes almost exactly a year after Taylor first stepped into the starting job following the release of three-time Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton shortly after training camp.
Taylor stepped into the spotlight in the Packers’ regular-season opener against Jacksonville and barely was heard from again, the highest compliment a starting NFL offensive linemen can receive.
Taylor, who was one of three Green Bay offensive linemen to start all 19 games (including playoffs), went from an unheralded backup to leading his position in the regular season, playing 1,084 of a possible 1,086 snaps.
“That’s how I prepared,” Taylor said. “When I was a backup, I understood when your time is called, you have to go. You don’t have time to warm-up or go with the flow. You have to play well and be seamless. Honestly, when I got the job, it was just kind of business as usual.”
The Packers hit the jackpot with the two offensive linemen they selected in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. David Bakhtiari has developed into an All-Pro left tackle, while JC Tretter became a reliable utility linemen before signing as a free agent to become Cleveland’s starting center.
However, it didn’t take long for everyone to realize Taylor could be something special, too. While the durability of Sitton and T.J. Lang limited Taylor’s snaps at first, he made the most of the handful of appearances and starts he made during his first three seasons.
By the opener in Jacksonville last season, Taylor had the full confidence of the offense to step in and thrive in a starting capacity.
“He always had the intangibles,” Bakhtiari said. “I’m nothing but proud and happy for him. It’s awesome, and on our end, we get to play a couple more years together and start really building some chemistry and consistency, and through that will be some fun stuff for the future.”
Although last year was his first season as a full-fledged starter, Taylor started to get an idea of how much the Packers value his efforts when they signed him to a two-year extension last summer instead of simply allowing him to play out his restricted free-agent tender.
After his breakthrough season, Taylor made it no secret he hoped to stay with the Packers for the long run. On Monday, they made it happen.
“I’m very proud of Lane,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “Anytime your players are rewarded financially, that’s a very good day here. He’s done all the right things. He’s earned it the hard way. He was here all summer. I don’t think there was a day I was here at work that he wasn’t here. He’s earned it.”
News broke about Taylor’s contract while the offensive line was just getting out of morning meetings. When he entered the locker room for afternoon media availability, he was quickly greeted with a hug from receiver Davante Adams and cheers from his fellow offensive linemen.
Taylor is now focused on building upon his first year as a starter. While his paycheck might be slightly different these days, Taylor still expects to play with the same undrafted chip on his shoulder.
“I’ve always believed I could play,” Taylor said. “It took a few years to prove to myself and others I could be a good player in the league. That’s always been the fuel to my fire is being that free agent and being looked over.
“My draft had the most offensive linemen ever taken, so that obviously was fuel to motivate me. It still does today.”