There was a time when you didn't know Victor Cruz.
There was a time when Victor Cruz wore No. 3 and used a rusting, faded blue locker that's standard issue for rookies trying to make the team.
There was also a time when you didn't know Victor Cruz could salsa.
If you're having difficulty remembering all that in the wake of what transpired since then, you're not alone. Meanwhile, Julian Talley is here for a refresher course.
Brought in as an undrafted rookie free agent, Talley, like Cruz, is a New Jersey native who went on to play wide receiver at UMass. Now he's also dawning the white No. 3 practice jersey around the Timex Performance center.
"Being at UMass with him and him coming here doing the things he's doing and me coming right after him, it's probably expected for them to kind of put me in the same situation he was in," said Talley, whose locker is situated near Cruz's. "I'm just taking it in stride."
The Minutemen's careers overlapped in the 2008 and 2009 seasons, when Cruz had the bulk of his nearly 2,000 receiving yards with the school. Following Cruz's departure in 2009, Talley's numbers more than doubled as a redshirt junior and eventually finished his college career with 162 receptions for 2,090 yards (12.9-yard average) and 11 touchdowns.
A few years behind, Cruz's accomplishments serve as blueprints for not only Talley and players from smaller schools, but undrafted rookies as a whole.
"Him leaving and coming here and watching the things he's done on the professional level, it definitely gives me hope seeing somebody you were so close to," Talley, who graduated from Winslow High School, said in between practices on the second day of rookie minicamp. "It gives me hope and encouragement that I potentially could do the same things as long as I do the right things first."
If he does that, he'll have a shot. But he'll still have to write his own story.
"I've been adjusting day by day, practice by practice, drill by drill, and it's starting to come together for me – the offense, the concepts, what they're trying to get me to do," he continued. "I feel good. I'm comfortable. I'm starting to get comfortable with the offense and way things work."
JULIAN TALLEY UMASS CAREER