“There was a big following
in our town,” Mehlhaff told Seahawks.NET when asked if the city he grew
up in rallied around the high school football team. “Aberdeen has about
27,000 people in it and actually we had about 5,000 at the big games and we
had a great year my senior year and we had a good following.
“Coming from a small
town like that, everyone pays attention and it’s important to them. People
always give me crap for being from South Dakota and they don’t think the
football is very good there, but people pay attention to it and they like following
it a lot.”
Like most kickers, Mehlhaff
played soccer as a child, but he focused on other sports in high school.
“In high school I
played four sports,” Mehlhaff recalled. “I played hockey, ran track
and I played baseball and football so I stayed real busy. I wanted to play basketball
and I did that until my freshman year and then I was starting for our varsity
hockey team as a freshman so I had to make a decision between that and basketball
and I just decided to drop basketball.
“I stayed busy between
all those sports with working out, so it was a crazy four years of high school.”
Things would eventually
get even crazier for the athletically gifted kicker. He did a little bit of
everything for Aberdeen Central High’s football team – quarterbacking
the offense while also holding down the punting and kicking duties as well as
being the main return man.
“I played quarterback
and that’s what I actually wanted to do,” Mehlhaff said. “I
wanted to go to college and play quarterback and play baseball. That was my
But it was a chance invite
to a big kicking competition that turned the tide and determined Melhaff’s
fate in becoming one of the best kickers in the country.
“I received all-state
honors as a sophomore and as a junior and then I received an invitation to go
out to Las Vegas for Chris Sailer’s national kicking competition for high
school kids,” Mehlhaff said. “I actually just went out there for
the heck of it. I knew I was a good kicker for my area, but I knew those kids
from California and Texas, that they’d blow me out of the water, so I
just went out to compare myself to them. I ended up winning the kickoff portion
of it. I was hitting some bombs and I kicked my field goals really well. I made
Chris’ top 12 and stuff started falling into place.
“I started hearing
from all these coaches from division one schools where they were coming up to
me and telling me ‘wow, we’re impressed and we’ll be giving
you a call’ and from that point on I was just like ‘Wow, I want
to do this at the next level’.”
Mehlhaff signed with Wisconsin
over offers from South Carolina and Minnesota and, as a true freshman, he was
allowed to be the kickoff specialist while senior Mike Allen was allowed to
be the place kicker.
“I was realistic with
myself because Mike was already here and he was an established kicker,”
Mehlhaff said. “I didn’t get upset that I had to wait, I just made
the best of my opportunity to impress the coaches and to be the best kickoff
guy I could be.
“Kicking off has always
been a strength of mine. I feel natural running up to the ball and getting after
it. It’s not just the touchback part, it’s the hang-time too and
that’s something I pride myself on. I was down in Arizona last weekend
working with Gary Zauner. He was a special teams coach in the NFL for 15 years
and now he’s doing one-on-one work with some of the draft-eligible guys.
“I hit a ball down
there one time and he said ‘In all my years of coaching, I’ve never
seen a guy hit a 4.5-second hang time on a kickoff.’ Hearing something
like that from a guy who’s been around for a long time that was special.
All of the top guys are pretty much the same, a field goal here or a field goal
there is the difference, so it really comes down to who can put it in the end
After Allen ran out of eligibility,
Mehlhaff jumped at the chance to be the kicker for the Badgers and he never
“As a sophomore I
just wanted to establish myself as a good solid kicker and I did that and then
my junior year my goal was to be All-Big 10,” Mehlhaff said. “Then,
in my senior year I wanted to be considered one of the top guys, if not the
top guy, in the country.
attitude I had about and the mindset I went in with. I was realistic with myself
when I came in and that helped me reach all of those goals.”
Mehlhaff ended his career
second on pretty much every Wisconsin kicking list, finishing with 295 points,
51 field goals made and he made 21 in 2007. He was named Second Team All-Big
10 as a junior in 2006, was named First Team All-Big 10 and a First Team All-American
as a senior. He also received the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top
“We had so many big
games last year it’s tough to just come up with one memory, but the game
that really stands out was Senior Day when we played Michigan at home,”
Mehlhaff said. “That was a big game for myself. I didn’t have any
last-second, game-winning field goals or anything like that this year that really
jump out in my mind, but that Michigan game will always stick out in my mind
because the Michigans and Ohio States are always big games. You have a little
added incentive to win those and I had a big day.
“That’s a game
I will always remember because of that and because it was Senior Day. To go
out like that is always special.”
Teams from around the NFL
have also stood up and taken notice, especially after the gifted kicker put
up 225 pounds 13 times on the bench press at the combine.
“I was the only kicker
who did it,” Mehlhaff said with a laugh. “I had gotten 15 a couple
of weeks before, so I was hoping for 16, but 13 was what I got. It doesn’t
really show how good of a kicker you are and it doesn’t really affect
much in leg strength, but it shows your work ethic and that you are a part of
the team because you can get in the weight room with the other guys.”
Melhaff, who is a lefty,
is hoping the weather clears up enough for him to put on a show for a couple
of teams that have shown an interest in his skills.
“What I’ve heard
recently is that things will pick up over the next couple of weeks,” Mehlhaff
said. “Atlanta still wants to work me out and Baltimore and Cincinnati
have told me they want to come up.
“At times teams that
aren’t excited about you come up and work you out and then teams that
are really excited about you don’t even show any interest so it’s
the little games they play, but you’ll just never know until it comes
to draft day.
set up times because they want to make sure snow is gone for sure. We were planning
on doing it at the end of March, but they wanted me to do it outside because
they don’t want to see banging it off the roof.”
Taylor Mehlhaff comes from
a small town, but he's ready for the big time.