GREEN BAY – It's often difficult for Division II players to get a look from the NFL even under the most ideal circumstances.
So one can only imagine what was going through Malik Taylor's mind when a lingering hamstring injury cost him a majority of his senior season at Ferris State in 2018.
Unable to build upon a junior campaign in which Taylor caught 61 passes for 906 yards and six touchdowns, all the 6-foot-2, 216-pound receiver could do was hope one NFL team would see enough on tape to warrant signing him as a college free agent.
At first, Taylor thought that was Tampa Bay. He signed with the Buccaneers after the 2019 NFL Draft but was released just three days later. Fearing the smallest of openings to an NFL career had closed, Taylor was left to wonder if he'd ever get a chance to prove himself at the game's highest level.
"I have no idea what I would have been doing … not being able to play, especially having goals to go to the NFL," Taylor said. "When you're a D-II guy and you can't play your senior year, that just adds onto the stress and how hard it is to get to this level."
Finally, on the eve of training camp last July, an offer came from the Packers for Taylor to catch on with their 90-man roster. It was a late opportunity but an opportunity all the same, and Taylor jumped at it.
Facing long odds to make the 53-man roster, Taylor still showed the coaches and scouts enough during training camp and the preseason for the Packers to sign him to their practice squad, where he'd spend his entire rookie season.
"Obviously, they saw something in me. Thank God," Taylor said. "I'm glad that I landed here. Last year, it was a big thing for me to come into the NFL, obviously from a D-II school. Just the mindset you have to have and all the extra things that come with this league."
This year was another unconventional offseason for Taylor due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Taylor didn't have a physical offseason program to go through the paces of the playbook or a preseason to state his case for a roster spot.
Still, he has shown up in practice and been a featured target of backup quarterback Tim Boyle. The two combined for one of the biggest play during Sunday's practice inside Lambeau Field, with Boyle hitting Taylor on out route near the sideline.
Instead of just converting the third-and-6 and slipping out of bounds, Taylor stopped his momentum, shook a tackle and turned upfield for a 45-yard touchdown.
"Tim's my guy. I was just talking to him at lunch about this actually," Taylor said. "I think last year with me being on the practice squad, me and Tim had a lot of opportunities to bond with each other and grow that chemistry with each other. It really translated into training camp this year."
Taylor credits a lot of his growth and success this summer to time spent "digging at the details" in the receivers room and working with position coach Jason Vrable.
With final cuts looming this Saturday, Taylor knows he has two more practices to show how far he's come over the past 13 months. Whatever happens, Taylor has appreciated the opportunity Green Bay gave him in his quest to prove he possesses the necessary skill to play in the NFL.
"You have to be ready for anything," Taylor said. "My mindset is still going out there every day, doing the best that I can, controlling what I can control. … That's really all you can do is go out there and trust it, play fast, play comfortable, trust your training as Coach (Matt) LaFleur always says.
"The front office does a great job. If they keep you, they keep you. If not, you just have to keep your head up and go to the next thing."