Taybor Pepper, a 2012 graduate of Saline High School, signed a three-year contract to play with the Green Bay Packers in the National Football League.
Pepper, son of Cam and Donna Pepper, signed the contract Friday morning, ending a year-long search for an NFL team after four years as long snapper for the Michigan State University Spartans.
“I’m happy to be going from a team known for putting on its boots and going to work to a team like the Packers, where the franchise is owned by the hard-working fans,” Pepper said Friday night after watching is younger sister, Sloane, play basketball at Pioneer High School. “It's got such a great tradition. It’s the ‘Frozen Tundra’ and you can’t get more tough and more football than that.”
Pepper visited Green Bay for a workout Dec. 20.
“It’s been surreal. It’s been a month since the workout, but it’s all happened so fast,” Pepper said.
Pepper has a connection with Green Bay special teams coach Ron Zook, who recruited Pepper when he coached at Illinois, where Pepper’s father Cam also played football.
“My agent said told me they want to develop me,” Pepper said.
Pepper will join the team for workouts in mid-April.
His contract is for the league-minimum, which is $465,000 for a rookie in 2017. In year two of the deal, the minimum rises to $555,000.
Pepper has been looking for an NFL job since his college football career ended a year ago. He admits doubts about whether a deal would materialize.
“I went out to visit the Ravens twice. I had a try-out with the Seahawks. Nothing panned out,” Pepper said. “It’s nearly impossible for that doubt not to creep up on you.”
Pepper said there were many conversations in his Saline home about his future. His father was a lineman for Illinois. When he was cut by the Eagles, he decided to go back to grad school. Pepper said his family was supportive over the last 12 months.
“It’s tough when you think your football career might be over. But every time that thought creeped up on me, I just went out the next day and worked even harder,” Pepper said.
Since November, Pepper has worked out at Saline High School.
“(MSU) Coach Dantonio always celebrated going back to your roots. I can’t think of anything that reflects that better than going back to Saline to work out,” Pepper said.
While at SHS, he worked with the football team’s long snappers and other athletes in the weight room.
“Some of those students are already committed to playing in college, or they’re still hoping to get recruited. I hope I was able to help them understand what’s going to be expected of them,” Pepper said.
As long snapper, Pepper’s job is to snap on punts and field goals. His father was an offensive lineman for Illinois. When he was trying to make the Eagles, he was advised he might have a better shot at an NFL career if he learned the long snap. He did learn and he passed that knowledge on to his son, who has been a long snapper since eighth grade. Pepper also went to specialized camps taught by long snapping guru Chris Rubio.
It’s a specialty that paid off handsomely for Pepper, who was part of a great era of football at Michigan State University.
Pepper played 54 games for the Spartans. In his four years the Spartans were Big 10 champions in 2013 and 2015. In 2013, Pepper the Spartans went 11-1 and won the Rose Bowl. In 2014, the Spartans went 10-2 and won the Cotton Bowl. In 2015, the Spartans were 11-1. They lost to eventual national champion Alabama in the NCAA College Football Playoff semifinal.
“It was great to be part of those teams. I made a lot of great friends. We had some great wins and experienced the big bowl games. I have the rings to show for it and they mean a lot to me,” Pepper said.