NFL: Former OSU offensive lineman Lane Taylor goes from undrafted to starting for the Green Bay Packers
Former Oklahoma State offensive lineman Lane Taylor has gone from being an undrafted free agent four years ago to a starter for one of the best offensive lines in the National Football League.
It's something the new starting left guard for the Green Bay Packers takes a lot of personal satisfaction in.
“The odds are really stacked against you when you come into the league as a free agent,” Taylor said Thursday in a phone interview with The Oklahoman. “To stick on a team and develop into a starter is obviously something I take pride in.
“I obviously felt like I should have been drafted. Over the years, I used that as motivation to prove people wrong.”
He proved himself enough to the Packers that they chose to sever ties with three-time Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton in the off-season and replace him with Taylor, a fourth-year player with only two previous NFL starts.
The move was questioned by some and Taylor admits feeling some pressure at the start of the season.
“There was a little bit (of added pressure),” Taylor said. “There was a lot of eyes on me. The way it shook up where I was the starter was quite the story. I just kind of put all that behind me. I knew I could play. I just needed to prove it.”
Four games into the Green Bay season, any Packer fan panicking about Sitton's release are no longer worried. Taylor and the rest of the Packers' offensive line have been superb.
In fact, Sports Illustrated proclaimed that Sunday afternoon's showdown with the Dallas Cowboys on Lambeau Field would feature the two best offensive lines in the NFL. Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy has repeatedly called the current Packers' offensive line the best the team has had.
Taylor describes his play this season as “pretty solid. Doing my job and doing what I am supposed to do… More than anything right now, I just feel more comfortable with the guys that I am playing with. We are really starting to jell together and do good things.”
Having Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and a bevy of talented receivers around him also provides extra motivation for the offensive line to play well, he said.
“We know if we do our job we got play-makers all over the grass,” he said. “We know they are going to make plays.”
Taylor played in 50 games with 47 starts as a four-year starter at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys' run-dominant offense may have hurt his draft stock, but Taylor's physical traits and marginal athleticism didn't fit the idea of the prototype NFL guard.
Taylor, however, made it a mission to improve and overcome any athletic shortcomings. The Packers say the 6-3, 324-pound Taylor has gotten better each year he's been in the NFL.
“Lane's one of those guys, he's made improvements each year. He came out of college as more of a run-blocker, but he's developed good pass-blocking skills,” Green Bay associate head coach/offense Tom Clements told reporters before the season started. “He's a very solid player. When he played last year, he played well for us and we're very comfortable with him in there.”
Taylor thinks he has improved in all areas as a player, but agrees he's probably shown the most improvement as a pass blocker.
“I think it's more of my consistency in pass blocking is what I have improved on the most (rather) than being able to pass block,” he said. “I think the biggest thing is just be consistent at it…
“Every year I just wanted to get better because obviously there is more going to more competition every year and things are going to get tougher. I wanted to work toward that goal to be a starter and I knew I had to improve.
The turning point in Taylor's NFL career came during his second season in a game against the New Orleans Saints when an ankle injury to offensive lineman T.J. Lang threw him into the fire.
“I went in at right guard and I played absolutely horrible in that game,” Taylor said. “It just really woke me up to how much better I had to get and how much better I had to prepare from week to week.”
Taylor was born and raised in Arlington, Texas, and grew up following the team he is playing against Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys. He has friends who are still big Cowboys' fans.
“They usually don't have too much to say after the past few games (against the Cowboys),” Taylor said.
He loves playing in Green Bay where the fervor of the fan base reminds him of his college days in Stillwater.
“It's a great place to play, lots of tradition, lots of championships, lot of winning environment around here. We know what the goal is,” Taylor said. “Almost a lot like Stillwater. Football is king there. Everyone is all about football.”
During the Packers' bye week, Taylor returned to Stillwater to watch OSU defeat Texas. He is still a Cowboy, just not the Dallas kind.
“I loved (Mike) Gundy and (Joe) Wickline when he was there and all the coaches there,” Taylor said. “I enjoyed my time there.”
And even though he's playing before a bunch of Cheeseheads in Green Bay, he's still searching for a pizza place in town that is better than the one in Stillwater.
“I am still looking for something as good as Hideaway,” he said.