Making the right decisions in life was Mark Tauscher’s main message when he spoke to students at New London High School Thursday, Feb. 23.
Tauscher was speaking to the students as part National FFA Week.
It was a natural fit for Tauscher, who grew up on a farm in Auburndale, before going to college at the University of Wisconsin in Madison to play football. He was then drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the seventh round in 2000 and went on to play for 11 seasons.
Tauscher admitted that he has achieved goals in his life way beyond anything he had originally dreamed of. But achieving those goals revolved around making the right decisions throughout his life.
He said the first important event that helped shape his life took place when he was in first grade. Tauscher said he was slow at reading and his class was split into three reading groups. The first group had around 15 students in it, the second around 10 and the third group had three students. Tauscher was in the third group.
“I remember feeling disgusted and going home upset,” Tauscher said. “I sat down with my mom and said, ‘What do I have to do because I don’t want to be sitting here in the third reading group? This isn’t something that I want.'”
It was at that point that Tauscher said he made the decision to improve his reading, and his mom helped him achieve that goal.
“We read every night,” Tauscher said. “We lived on a farm so we still had chores to do. I did have to get up at 5:30 a.m. because we had chores we had to do before going to school. It took a lot of effort and time, but by the second grade I was in the second [reading] group.
Then in third grade Tauscher said he met a teacher who convinced him that there wasn’t anything he couldn’t accomplish. Tauscher never finished outside the top 10 in his class since then.
“I think back to that time and think if I hadn’t of made that decision and had that guidance, I probably would have been lost in the shuffle and I know I would not have been able to accomplish the things that I have accomplished,” Tauscher said.
The next decision that shaped Tauscher’s life was actually a decision that his brother made. His brother had just gotten his driver’s license and he and Tauscher, when he was around 13 years old, were travelling on some gravel country roads.
“I said, ‘Just fly through the stop signs. Just hit the gas and let’s move,'” Tauscher said. “I don’t know why, but for whatever reason he decided not to, and this sticks with me to this day. If he hadn’t of stopped at that stop sign and done the right thing, I’d be dead. There was a car flying from the other side right as we stopped.
“Would it have been more fun to do the other thing and fly through the stop sign? It sure would have been. Doing the right thing in this case saved my life, and saved my brother’s life. It’s something that was engrained in my head and was a teaching moment for me. I’m really glad my brother is a lot more responsible than I was.”
Tauscher also shared a story about how he learned the value of hard work. One summer, he and a few high school friends picked rocks. They worked 33 hours and were looking forward to getting paid in July. He got paid $99. Needless to say, Tauscher wasn’t happy with what he got paid.
Tauscher said this taught him the lesson of treating people fairly, as well as making sure that when you do something, make sure it is worthwhile.
His important decisions in athletics began when he was a sophomore in high school. Basketball was a big deal at his high school and when he was a sophomore he was on the junior varsity team but also suited up for varsity games, which Tauscher admitted was a big deal to him.
While feeling on top of the world, the varsity coach pulled Tauscher aside and told him a senior wanted to come back out for basketball, which meant Tauscher had to give up his varsity jersey. Tauscher admitted he didn’t take the news well and slacked off while playing on the JV team. After around four games of that, his JV coach pulled him aside.
“The coach pulled me aside and asked me, ‘What’s going on? If you aren’t going to give the effort and play, I’m going to take your JV jersey and you can just go home,'” Tauscher said. “That was something where I really needed a kick in the butt at the time.”
Looking back, Tauscher said it was probably one of the best things that happened to him because he began working harder. He eventually made the varsity team and played at the state tournament.
“The point is, whenever you get knocked down or somebody tells you something you can’t do, you better have belief in yourself that you can do it,” Tauscher said.
The reason this was so important in Tauscher’s life is because while he was playing in the state basketball tournament in Madison, one of the UW football coaches saw him play. This eventually led to Tauscher attending the University of Wisconsin to play football.
Tauscher admitted that he was intimidated when he first got to the University of Wisconsin, but he knew this was his one shot to make it. He said he impressed the coaches enough to be a back-up and to travel with the team. Three years later, Tauscher said he still hadn’t played, he was frustrated and planned to leave the program. He eventually decided to stay, started, and the Badgers had a great year.
“All these decisions that I have told you about have led me to this position,” Tauscher said to the auditorium of New London students. “You don’t really appreciate them until you look back at them and think, ‘If I would have done this differently, I wouldn’t have had these opportunities happen.’ As luck would have it, my hometown team was able to draft me in the seventh round. My odds were pretty slim, but two guys wound up getting hurt and I wound up getting a jersey and playing 10 or 11 years.”
One final decision Tauscher had to make was whether he wanted to come back to the NFL after blowing out his knee for the second time in his career. He admitted it would have been easy to just call it a career, but he decided to try to come back from the injury.
“I put in a ton of effort and energy to come back with no guarantee that I was going to make it back,” Tauscher said.
He was able to make it back to play two more years with the Packers and was also part of the Packers Super Bowl team.
“I think the thing I’m trying to illustrate to you guys is you never know when your opportunity is coming,” Tauscher said.