Power WR Talley bolsters credentials in a hurry

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For most of nine months, Julian Talley waited.

Sitting at home on his couch, he anticipated a phone call with a voice on the other end willing to give him an opportunity to fulfill his dream of playing pro football.

Talley, 24, spent many of his days working for a mortgage company and, while that helped pay the bills, he yearned for more. Just a year removed from college football, he was not ready to abandon the game he loved. So he waited.

"For me, I was just so hungry and wanted to play anywhere I could," Talley said.

Scouting report

  • Matchup:

    Power (3-12) vs. San Jose (11-4), 7 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center.

  • TV, Radio, Internet:

    CBS Sports Network, arenafootball.com.

  • Power:

    Coming off 71-58 loss at Cleveland, its sixth in a row. ... A loss would eliminate it from playoff contention. ... WR Julian Talley had five touchdown receptions against Cleveland, tying a single-game franchise record. ... Final home game this season.

  • Sabercats:

    Coming off 62-35 victory vs. San Antonio, giving them their ninth win in their past 11 games. ... Won previous meeting this season, 68-54, June 8. ... DB Clevan Thomas leads the Arena Football League with 11 interceptions.

Eventually, he got the call, and since joining the Power in late May, Talley has emerged as perhaps the best receiver on a team that has mostly struggled.

Talley's production has made his prolonged wait seem inexplicable.

But there is more to the story.

Virtually from his first practice at Massachusetts, Talley was taken under the wing of a then-unheralded wide receiver named Victor Cruz. The players were raised in New Jersey and played the same position at Massachusetts, guaranteeing them a considerable amount of time around each other.

Talley did not grow up with a brother, so Cruz, now a superstar with New York Giants, became just that for him. So much so that he instantly referred to Cruz as his "big bro" when his name came up in conversation.

Talley never was overwhelmed by being closely associated with the team's star receiver.

"Fair or unfair, Julian never backed down from the comparisons when he was at UMass," said Brian Crist, who was the wide receivers coach in college for Cruz and Talley.

"He rose to the expectations we had for him and he was just as productive for us in his own way that Vic was."

It was a trend that continued when he participated at the Giants training camp last August.

Amazingly, they put up similar career numbers at Massachusetts while playing the same slot position. Talley even wore the white No. 3 jersey that Cruz sported at his first training camp.

"Living my dream and living it with my big bro, that was crazy," Talley said.

After an impressive camp, Talley was among the final cuts. Despite the time away from the game, he has excelled in his seven games with the Power, catching 64 passes for 749 yards -- both team highs in that span -- to go with his 16 touchdowns.

With only three games left in the Power's season, questions about Talley's future are inevitable. He dreams of getting back to the NFL, and, while it's a goal shared by many others, he might have what it takes to join his big brother at the next level.

"He can play on any level," Power coach Derek Stingley said. "It's just a matter of him having the opportunity."

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Craig Meyer: cmeyer@post-gazette.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG


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