GREEN BAY - Mark Tauscher and Ryan Longwell this summer will complete the journey from wide-eyed, uncertain rookies to Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame inductees.
"My mindset was to try to get to next week," said Longwell, whom the Packers picked up off waivers in 1997 after he signed with but never played for the San Francisco 49ers. He competed in Green Bay against third-round draft pick Brett Conway.
"I was trying to get to the second week of training camp and I was trying to get to the third week," he said. "I played my whole career that way."
It was an approach Tauscher could appreciate. He was a walk-on at the University of Wisconsin who worked his way to starting right tackle before the Packers picked him in the seventh round of the 2000 draft.
"I will always remember the first time I walked into the (Packers') locker room. It was a deer-in-the-headlights experience," he said. "Then you go to practice and reality hits."
Packers Hall of Fame Inc. President Tom Konop said a comment by former Packers GM Ron Wolf during the selection process resonated.
"He said when these players played, you never had to worry about your right tackle and you never had to worry about your kicker," Konop said.
Longwell didn't play in his first two preseason games, then made all of his kicks until the second game of the season in Philadelphia. He missed a field goal with 15 seconds left that allowed the Eagles to escape with a 10-9 victory.
On the flight back to Green Bay, Longwell was visited by Reggie White and Brett Favre.
"They said everybody goes through this in your career and you're so fortunate it's in Week 2 of your career. Now you can get it over with," Longwell said. "That conversation totally transformed my approach and my outlook. If I make that kick in Philly, I don't think I last 15 years. I don't think I would have learned enough to get out of my own way."
Tauscher grew up listening to Jim Irwin and Max McGee calling Packers games on the radio while doing chores with his dad, Dennis, on the family farm in Auburndale. He credits his father, who was also a sportswriter and a coach, for his guidance and support. Dennis Tauscher died in 2013.
"It's a bummer he's not going to be able to be here. I'm sure he's looking down pretty happy today," Tauscher said.
A seventh-round draft pick by the Packers 2000, Tauscher became the starter at right tackle in the second game of his rookie season. He played in 134 games (132 starts) during an 11-year career (2000-10).
He was part of an offensive line that helped the Packers set team records for rushing (2,558 yards) and average yards per carry (5.0) in 2003, and also for fewest sacks allowed (14) in 2004.
Although he toyed with free agency a couple of times, Tauscher played his entire career in Green Bay. The Packers did not offer Longwell a contract after the 2005 season. By then, he was Green Bay's leading scorer but had priced himself out of that market. He signed with the Minnesota Vikings.
"I was still healthy and I was still in my prime and you go look for work," he said. "I would not have the perspective I have (on the Packers) had I stayed there my whole career. It gives you an appreciation when you go elsewhere."
Longwell said playing at least half his games in a domed-stadium extended his career. He is the second-leading scorer in Packers' history and ranks third for the Vikings.
"Everything happens for a reason," he said.
With 1,054 career points with the Packers, Longwell was the team's all-time scoring leader until he was passed by Mason Crosby in 2015. He led the team in scoring for nine straight seasons (1997-2005) and finished his Packers career with 226 field goals and 376 extra points.
Longwell scored 964 points from 1997-2004, the most in the NFL during that time. He scored in a team-record 144 straight games from '97-2005, and concluded his NFL career with 1,687 points.
Both men were active in the community, as well, and Tauscher continues his association with the Packers with various radio gigs, including the "Wilde and Tausch Show" on ESPN Milwaukee.
"Retirement was a tough transition for me," Tauscher said. "You go from having so much structure to you can do whatever you want. I always enjoyed (the media) side of it. It's a great way to stay involved and not take up 14-16 hours a day doing it."
Tauscher and Longwell will be inducted at the 48th Hall of Fame induction banquet July 21, 2018, in the Lambeau Field Atrium. They will be the 160th and 161st inductees.