Rookie longshot relying on his speed

Of the some 20 to 30 rookie and first-year players who met the media at a special luncheon at Lambeau Field to kick off training camp on Friday, linebacker Jermaine Taylor could certainly be one of the more intriguing new players to watch this month.<p>

Taylor, brought in as a free agent on May 3, is the only player on the Packers' training camp roster from a Division III school, making him not only a longshot to make the team, but also a potential hidden talent. Taylor played at Bridgewater College in Virginia.

"I always set my goals high," said Taylor from the Legends Club in the Lambeau Field Atrium just before his first training camp practice as a professional. "Like everybody else in here, my goal is to make the team - to play on Sundays and travel with the team."

Besides his impressive record of being successful in whatever he has done, the Packers brought Taylor in for a shot for one reason. No, it was not because he posted nearly 500 tackles or that he played in a similar style defense at Bridgewater to the Packers. It was for something else.

"I think it was more so for my speed," said Taylor.

That component has become a major focus of the Packers' defense over the past couple of years, especially with the selection of last year's first-round pick Nick Barnett. Packers' linebackers coach Mark Duffner scouted Taylor at Bridgewater and worked him out just after this year's draft when it became clear that he had the ability to get a chance to play at the NFL level. Though he played middle linebacker in college, he will be competing at weak-side linebacker with the Packers.

With just one mini-camp and a couple of training camp practices to his credit, Taylor knows he has much to learn, but is excited and ready for his new opportunity.

"I would say the best thing for me to do is to be ready for the competition, and to work on the areas I need to improve on," he said. "For example, my pass catching, and I probably need to work on my lateral skills, coming down on tackles."

As for the aforementioned component and the major reason the Packers signed Taylor, that area does not need any improvement.

"Now as far as chasing somebody down, that's easy to do," said Taylor.

Besides being a four-year standout in football at Bridgewater, where teams he played on advanced to the playoffs each year and the national title game in another, Taylor excelled in track, even at 215 pounds. He has been recognized as an All-American, running the 100-meter dash in a best of 10.72 seconds and the 55-meter in 6.46.

Born in Jamaica, Taylor grew up in Florida and decided to attend a small school away from home. Several Division 1-AA schools in Florida took a look at him, but he really was not sure if he was ready for Division 1 college football. Thus, Bridgewater became a feasible option.

"I've been asked, ‘Why didn't you transfer,' and stuff like that, but I was comfortable there," said Taylor. "I liked the school, I liked the environment, and the people were great. It felt like home."

For now, Green Bay will be his home. He came to Titletown two weeks before training camp primarily to workout and now weighs 225 pounds, which the Packers' coaches think is ideal for him. He is not concerned with being labeled undersized, either, saying, "My size may be an advantage, not a disadvantage."

Taylor is listed as the smallest linebacker on the Packers' roster both in height (5-10) and weight and will compete with Torrance Marshall, Tyreo Harrison, Paris Lenon, and Marcus Wilkins among others for a roster spot.

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