MADISON - Linebacker Mike Taylor has never been one to study mock drafts to see where former teammates and competitors might go in the NFL draft every April. Now that he’s involved in the process, Taylor isn’t changing his ways.
“I am going to control what I can control,” said Taylor. “Whatever I do, I am going to do to the fullest and keep in mind why I am doing it.”
Unable to work out at the NFL scouting combine after undergoing sports hernia surgery Jan.7, six days after Wisconsin lost to Stanford, 20-14, in the 99th Rose Bowl, Taylor was a spectator during UW’s annual pro timing day Wednesday, but has started running and has an individual workout scheduled at UW March 27.
“You got to mesh to film to what you can do in person,” said Taylor. “I am excited to show teams what I can do.”
Even though he wasn’t able to work out, Taylor – one of four former Badgers invited to the scouting combine in Indianapolis and the only one on defense – embraced the interview process. Meeting with a majority of the NFL teams, one of Taylor’s goals was to dispel his injury-riddled past. Taylor had neck surgery in 2008 and redshirted, reconstructive knee surgery in 2009 that cost him the second half of his redshirt freshman season and hip surgery in 2012.
“They are all different, small injuries,” said Taylor. “It’s not one thing that keeps popping up. It’s different things you take care of, heal and then play. I’ve been doing it throughout my career. I plan and I play at a high level.”
Taylor said he weighed roughly 211 pounds following the hip surgery last spring, but now is up to around 235 as he works out at NX Level in Waukesha.
“That’s where J.J. Watt, Kevin Zeitler and Bradie Ewing all train,” said Taylor. “Just want to get bigger and get stronger. I want to work on everything.”
A first-team All-Big Ten selection by the media last season, Taylor lead the Badgers with 120 tackles (67 solos) and started 45 games career games. In 2011, Taylor led the Big Ten and ranked third in the nation with 150 tackles, the eighth-best total in UW history and the most since Nick Greisen’s 167 tackles in 2001.
Taylor finished seventh all-time at UW with 375 career tackles and was named the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association’s division 1 college player of the year; a humbling honor considering the ceremony was held at Lambeau Field a few miles away from where he played high school football at Ashwaubenon in 2007.
“Six years ago I was at the event (being honored), so it was pretty cool to be back,” said Taylor. “I went out there, tried my hardest, had fun and tried to do my job. Everything else usually takes cares of itself.”
One of the six captains from last year’s team, Taylor views the 2012 Badgers as having “a different kind of season.” Wisconsin accomplished one of its goals of repeating as Big Ten champions, but did so only because two teams in the Leaders Division were ineligible. The Badgers also suffered six losses – all by a touchdown or less – and fell in the Rose Bowl for the third straight season.
“Every one of those games we showed fight,” said Taylor. “It came down to the wire every game. Guys were involved. They were in.”
No longer affiliated with the University and free to not bite his tongue, Taylor choose not throw former head coach Bret Bielema under the bus with his decision to up and leave Wisconsin for Arkansas, saying it was out of his control and he’s moved on.
One thing he will proclaim: he and his seniors took a program coming off a 7-6 season to a program that is looking to win its fourth straight conference season.
“If you look at when I got there, Wisconsin was trying to get on the map,” said Taylor. “Over the next five years, we grew and showed the kind of guys we had. For the most part, we had great seasons there and did things that had never been done in program history. It’s really grown.”