GREEN BAY – Patrick Taylor had big dreams for his football career, especially after a junior year at Memphis in which he rushed for 1,122 yards and 16 touchdowns.
And life was only getting better, as the 6-foot-2, 217-pound running back was set to be one of the featured playmakers in the Tigers' offense in 2019.
That all changed after Taylor suffered a Lisfranc injury in the opener against Ole Miss. The foot injury not only derailed his senior year and dashed his draft hopes, but also led to a series of surgeries that put his rookie NFL season in jeopardy.
The final one, in March 2019, saw Taylor travel to Wisconsin to have his foot operated on by respected orthopedist Dr. Robert Anderson, an associate team physician of the Packers. It was a trip Taylor, a native of Humble, Texas, will never forget.
"It was freezing and snowing – snow everywhere," Taylor recalled. "I was like, 'There's no way that I'd come here, right?'"
As fate would have it, a little more than a month later, the Packers extended a contract to Taylor after he went undrafted. The organization understood he likely would miss most, if not all, of his rookie season, but still wanted to roll the dice on his upside anyway.
Taylor accepted the offer. He didn't know much about Green Bay but felt comfortable with Packers running backs coach Ben Sirmans, whom he'd met with at the NFL Scouting Combine.
While his foot healed last season, Taylor looked to grow from the neck up. A disciplined and thorough notetaker going back to his time at Memphis, Taylor has filled plenty of notebooks in the team meeting room over the past year.
Aside from a few late-season practices, however, Taylor hadn't been able to apply what he'd learned until now. With his foot fully healed, Taylor is competing with rookie seventh-round pick Kylin Hill and 2019 sixth-round pick Dexter Williams to be the Packers' No. 3 running back in 2021.
"He's extremely intelligent," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "You should see his notebook, it's as good as some of our quarterbacks'. He does such a great job and he's really in tuned to what we're trying to get accomplished and the why's behind it."
Away from the field, Taylor is no stranger to adversity. In 2005, his parents housed approximately 50 of their family and friends after Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana. The experience taught Taylor, who was only 7 at the time, how to be selfless.
Perhaps it's that same attitude that helped guide Taylor through all the obstacles he's faced on the football field. Even during the tough times, Taylor never looked to blame anyone for his troubles. He just pushed ahead.
"It can always be worse, right?" Taylor said. "I just try to use that mentality of – you know, I couldn't have come back, right? But I got an opportunity to be with such a prestigious organization that believes in my ability and took the time to allow me to heal. During this whole time, it allowed me to have a different perspective on things."
Now in Green Bay, Taylor hopes he's found the right set of tracks to get his train moving forward. After getting his first taste of Lambeau Field during Family Night, Taylor is champing at the bit to suit up for Saturday's preseason opener vs. Houston.
By the time Taylor takes the field, it will have been 595 days since he last played in a game (2019 Cotton Bowl). Regardless of whether he lands on Green Bay's 53-man roster in a few weeks, Taylor remains forever grateful for the Packers giving him a chance to get his feet back underneath him.
"It means a lot," Taylor said. "I just owe them so much and what I can do for them is just be an asset to this football team, try to help in any way that I can whether that's on special teams or on the offensive side of the ball.
"I'm extremely thankful for the opportunity that they've given me, to take a chance on me being hurt and sticking with me up until now."