GREEN BAY – Patrick Taylor wanted the touchdown. No, he needed the touchdown.
After the passing of his grandmother, Lillie Mae Shelby, earlier this spring, the Packers' third-year running back wanted to do something special to honor her legacy and everything she did for her family during her 83 years.
On Saturday night, Taylor did just that when his number was called in the second quarter of the Packers' preseason matchup with the New England Patriots. Facing first-and-goal from the Patriots' 8-yard line, Taylor took the handoff from backup quarterback Sean Clifford and followed his instincts.
The 25-year-old running back noticed the cornerback bite on the motion by Dontayvion Wicks and the defensive end collapse on the left side of the offensive line. Taylor put his foot in the dirt, hit a jump-cut and raced into the open field.
"My main thing was I'm scoring a touchdown," said Taylor after practice Monday. "I don't know how I'm going to do it, but I just made that split-second decision of I see the corner traveling with the fly guy and I see the end getting nosey, I'm just gonna jump-cut and get to the end zone."
With one defender to beat on the edge, Taylor slipped out of reach of Patriots linebacker Josh Uche and high-stepped to the end zone and his very first Lambeau Leap. Fireworks shot off in stereo with Taylor pounding his chest and finally pointing up to the night's sky.
Taylor had scored plenty of times in his football career, including 39 TDs at Memphis, but this one was just a little bit sweeter. This one was for Grandma Lillie Mae.
"Honestly, it was a blessing. I just want to thank God," Taylor said. "To be able to get in the end zone right there – as I was in the stands with the Lambeau Leap, I touched my chest and I pointed up. That was a good moment."
On the field, Taylor has been entrenched in one of the most competitive position battles on the roster as he, seventh-round pick Lew Nichols, Tyler Goodson, Emanuel Wilson, and Nate McCrary vie for the No. 3 job behind backfield pillars Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon.
A respected member of the locker room, Taylor welcomes both the challenge and friendship that come with that competition. It's really no different than the past two years, as the former undrafted free agent has fought for everything he's earned in Green Bay.
Now a veteran of 23 NFL regular-season games, Taylor has been a back of all trades. On top of his 33 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown, the 6-foot-2, 217-pound running back also has developed into a core special-teams player over the past two years.
Against the Patriots, Taylor led the Packers with 11 special-teams snaps. With Green Bay short on available tight ends, Taylor even pitched in as up-blocker on kickoff returns.
"Patrick has grown right along with everybody else," said running back AJ Dillon, a 2020 classmate of Taylor's. "I know he doesn't necessarily get that much praise or credit, but he's seemingly a starter on all the special teams. He knows the offense inside and out.
"He does some of the dirty work that doesn't necessarily get put on the stat sheet, but he's somebody who knows what he's doing. He's working and always has a positive attitude as much as you humanly can."
The No. 3 battle has lived up to expectation. Before suffering shoulder injuries, Goodson and Nichols made a good account of themselves. In their absence, Wilson has run for an NFL-best 174 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries this preseason (8.3 yards per carry).
Taylor, meanwhile, is steady as they come. Knowing how tight the backfield competition would be, Taylor put in the work this offseason while training in Austin, Texas. Taylor's goal was to trim down his body weight while still maintaining his natural power.
The plan has put Taylor back in prime position for a roster spot in Green Bay, where he's battling to make Green Bay's initial 53-man roster for the first time coming out of training camp.
To do so, he'll need to parlay his emotionally charged performance against the Patriots with a strong finish in Saturday's preseason finale against the Seattle Seahawks. Taylor is ready for all of it. And who knows? Maybe there's a few more TDs in his future, as well.
"You definitely have to have confidence in yourself that you're that type of guy," Taylor said. "If you're not confident in yourself, who's gonna be confident in you? Your parents can't give you confidence. Your coaches can't give you confidence. Your teammates can't give you confidence. I'm confident in myself that I'm putting the stuff on tape that's good enough to make this team."