Green Bay Packers offensive tackle Mark Tauscher, who literally came out of nowhere in 2000 to become a solid starter and potential Pro Bowler, has been signed to a six-year contract extension, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman announced Wednesday.
Tauscher, currently on injured reserve after suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week Two at New Orleans (Sept. 15), had begun his third consecutive year as the team's starting right tackle.
The contract extension, one of the longest in recent Packers history, assures that the 25-year-old Marshfield, Wis., native will remain in a Green Bay uniform through the 2008 season. Sherman announced the extension during his noon press conference.
An unheralded seventh-round draft choice out of the University of Wisconsin, Tauscher had stepped in for injured veteran Earl Dotson as a rookie during the second game of the 2000 season, and proceeded to establish himself at right tackle, making 32 consecutive starts before suffering the knee injury. He underwent surgery for reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Sept. 17 and was placed on injured reserve Sept. 18.
The football fates initially had provided the 6-4, 320-pound former Badger with an opportunity when he was called upon to start the Packers' first three preseason games in 2000 after Dotson was sidelined by the back problems that were to later end his season in Week 2.
Tauscher, proceeding to entrench himself as the starter at right tackle in 2001, proved to be a key factor as Green Bay allowed the third-fewest sacks in the league (22) and the fewest by a Packers team in 27 years (17 in 1974). Tauscher, who started all 16 games and both of the team's postseason games, subsequently was named to the all-pro team of the Dallas Morning News.
A highly versatile performer, Tauscher – with customary starter Marco River hampered by a broken hand, moved inside and played right guard during the second and fourth quarters of the season's final five games. It was the first action of his professional career at right guard.
Offensive line coach Larry Beightol, who considers Tauscher one of the premier offensive linemen in the NFL, calls him "a terrific athlete," adding, "He's a very smart and aware football player. I think he could probably play any position in the the offensive line. And I think our coaching staff has great confidence in him. He has accountability. We know he is going to give us his very best on any given Sunday, and he comes ready to play. He's just a real good football player."
As a collegian, Tauscher was a one-year starter (1999) and two-year letterman (1998-1999). After making the team as a walk-on in 1995, he went on to demonstrate remarkable improvement and perseverance of his college career. He played little for two straight seasons (1996-97) before contributing substantially his final two years, including a starting assignment as a senior.
Following his final season, he was invited to both the Hula Bowl and East-West Shrine games, the only 1999 Badger to appear in two postseason all-star contests. A member of two straight Big Ten and Rose Bowl championship teams (1998-99), he also was selected to the Academic All-Big Ten team both years.
Earlier, Tauscher won all-state and all-conference honors in football his junior and senior years as an offensive lineman at Auburndale, Wis., High School. He also made all-conference teams in both basketball (center) and baseball (third base) as a junior and senior.