Friday, January 03, 2014
Julian Talley never doubted this day would eventually arrive. Even when he was working 9-to-5 at a mortgage company, the University of Massachusetts alum knew someday he’d play in the NFL.
Talley, who was signed to the New York Giants active roster Tuesday, would stack personal training sessions and workouts before and after his job working for a mortgage company last year. He wanted to stay in shape and stay ready.
It had been almost three years since his college career ended. For most players, if they haven’t made it by then, they never will. But Talley, who spent three preseasons with the New York Giants without ever cracking the 53 man roster, couldn’t be convinced that he wasn’t an exception.
“I love the game. I couldn’t just give it up,” Talley said. “I knew I still had some time to make things happen. Between the mortgage company and my trainer, it was a real grind. I love the game so much. I thought it was something I had to do.”
His persistence paid off.
“It’s beyond exciting,” he said.
An invitation to play Arena Football rescued him from mortgage work from March through July. The AFL isn’t glamorous, but it’s football and Talley was glad for the chance.
“I swallowed my pride a little bit and played some AFL ball and eventually got back,” Talley said. “Coach Sting (Derek Stingley) brought me on board. It was a great experience. At some point I knew things could happen for me. I just kept pushing, kept grinding, kept punching the clock.”
He caught 74 passes for 821 yards and 17 touchdowns, and was signed to the Giants practice squad on Sept. 3, a move that reunited him with his close friend and former Minuteman teammate Victor Cruz.
“I could say a thousand great things about Vic. I don’t have any brothers, but he’s always been like a big brother to me,” Talley said. “To see him do the things he did, that I’m in a position to do now, who knows? He’s always been there with tips in practice or encouraging words, even some life advice.”
Coincidentally, it was an injury to Cruz, who is recovering from a concussion and a knee ailment, that opened the door for Talley.
“I’m just trying to take advantage, but I’m hoping he gets back as soon as he can,” said Talley, who’ll wear No. 19 for New York. “This is a great opportunity I’m just going out trying to make the best of it.”
Talley hoped Sunday was just the first step of his NFL career not the high point, but he was proud of himself regardless. He hoped other players clinging to their NFL dreams would be energized by his success.
“It’s been a long journey, but I stayed with it. I knew I could get back. I was confident I could play. There’s been a lot of sacrifices, a lot of hard work. I just had faith, believing it was going to happen and here I am,” he said. “I’d like to be motivation to the guys. Sometimes you get knocked down. I hope to be an inspiration to those guys.”
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage