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Free agent Talley hopes to take Cruz's path

Massachusetts' Julian Talley tries to break the tackle

Massachusetts' Julian Talley tries to break the tackle of Central Connecticut's Chris Linares. (Oct. 8, 2011) Credit: AP

As the NFL draft was winding down Saturday afternoon, Julian Talley got a phone call from a friend to lift his spirits. Hang in there, he was told. Plenty of players make it to the NFL without being drafted. This isn't the end.

The friend should know. The friend was Victor Cruz.

Cruz and Talley were teammates in college, and once Talley signs with the Giants as an undrafted free agent sometime next week, they again will be teammates.

The Giants found the most compelling rags-to-riches story in the NFL last season when Cruz emerged from nowhere to become one of the league's stars and set a franchise record for receiving yardage. They're hoping they can replicate that Horatio Alger theme -- or at least come close -- with Talley, who has a lot in common with Cruz.

Both are receivers from New Jersey (Cruz is from Paterson and Talley is from farther south, in Winslow). Both went to the University of Massachusetts. Neither was good enough to be invited to the NFL combine. Neither was drafted. Both signed with the Giants.

Even their builds and games are similar. Cruz is listed at 6 feet, 204 pounds. Talley is 6-1, 192.

"We pretty much are similar types of receivers," said Talley, who played the slot for the Minutemen after Cruz left for the NFL. "We each bring different things to the table, but I would say for the most part, we're similar."

Cruz and Talley formed a bond at UMass. Talley said he calls Cruz his big brother because Cruz took the young receiver under his wing when Talley arrived in Amherst. That could continue with the Giants, a possibility that still had Talley shaking his head Sunday, a day after agreeing to sign with the team.

"It's going to be fun reuniting with him," said Talley, who caught 60 passes for 759 yards and four touchdowns as a fifth-year senior in 2011. "That was always something that we all talked about . . . I mean, I've been to a couple of Giants games and watched him play and now I'm going to potentially have the opportunity to get in there and step on that field with Victor. It's unreal."

Talley certainly knows it can happen. Cruz is his proof. He's become a patron saint for undrafted players, none more than an undrafted wide receiver from UMass.

"It was incredible," he said of Cruz's emergence in 2011. "Watching him do the things we talked about while we were at UMass, just talking about first getting a shot and then being in the NFL. Him going out and doing the things he did, I mean, that's like a dream come true. He's living the dream."

Now it's Talley's dream, too.

Notes & quotes: Besides Talley, the Giants agreed to sign nine undrafted free agents who will join their seven draft picks and other tryout players at the rookie minicamp. The undrafted free agents, according to various reports, include DE Matt Broha (Louisiana Tech), WR Damian Davis (Mary Hardin-Baylor), WR David Douglas (Arizona), G Stephen Goodin (Nebraska-Kearney), S Janzen Jackson (McNeese State), RB Joe Martinek (Rutgers), S JoJo Nicolas (Miami), DE Adewale Ojomo (Miami) and G D'Angelo McCray (Memphis). The roster of undrafted free agents often remains fluid right up to the camp, and the Giants will not confirm any signings until next week.

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