Former GVSU football standout David Talley makes NFL jump
Alumnus fights for career as Green Bay Packer
There are roughly 73,660 college football players across the NCAA’s three divisions of competition. The chances of a high school football player making the jump to the collegiate stage is rather slim, as only roughly 6.8 percent of high school players play in the NCAA.
If that jump is large, the leap from college to the National Football League is gargantuan.
With the NFL having 32 teams and each team being allowed only 53 players, that makes 1,696 professional athletes on NFL rosters during the regular season. That means one out of about every 43 players will be on an NFL roster.
Those odds become even slimmer for students at Grand Valley State once you consider the discrepancy in perceived talent between NCAA’s divisions, as Division I holds the lion’s share of professional players. Factor in again the difference in years (only 224 players can be drafted each offseason, though many players sign on as undrafted free agents). Additionally, some players are never drafted and sign on as international free agents or come over from similar sports like rugby.
Long story short? Making it to the NFL is, in a word, difficult.
In 2016, exactly six players on NFL rosters were former Lakers, including the likes of Brandon Carr, Charles Johnson and the recently graduated Matt Judon. That number is promising to grow to seven thanks to the athletic and driven linebacker who made his way to GVSU via Southfield, Michigan: David Talley.
“In (Talley’s) junior year, he showed flashes of some dominance at our level, and he had a really good senior year," said Laker football Head Coach Matt Mitchell. "Everything evened out, and he was consistent, and even though we lost in the playoffs, if you look at the tape, he probably was one of our best players in that playoff game."
After graduating in 2017, Talley sat down with Mitchell where he was told that he could either take his shot and make a play for the NFL or hang up his helmet. After discussing with family, Talley made the decision to pursue his professional career at the highest level.
Talley and his agent fielded training camp invitations from a number of teams, but it eventually came down to two squads: the Green Bay Packers and the Houston Texans.
When deciding between the two franchises, Talley looked at each team's history, tradition and his overall outlook for success. These were some of the same factors that led him to GVSU, and for him, Green Bay became the clear choice.
“The first few OTAs, it’s a little shell-shocking because I felt like I overcame a lot of odds; I felt blessed,” Talley said. “I’m in a meeting with guys like (Packers quarterback) Aaron Rodgers and (Packers linebacker) Clay Matthews. I just felt blessed.”
The GVSU product certainly earned his spot in those meetings. During his college career, Talley performed nearly 300 total tackles and earned a slew of conference and team honors, including an All-GLIAC nod in 2015.
However, his outstanding numbers were not the only attributes that drew the interest of pro scouts.
“(He's) very athletic," Mitchell said. "He’s comfortable in the box; he’s comfortable outside the box, too. He can go sideline to sideline, special teams—he’s athletic. For his size, he’s very athletic.”
Talley echoed the statements of his former coach, adding that he values his own intelligence and ability to pick up concepts and adapt quickly.
The 22-year-old has certainly adapted to the environment of professional practices and locker-room relationships, as he already feels comfortable with his position, coaches and teammates, including veterans such as Jayrone Elliot and Nick Perry.
Of course, one major factor involved in his current tenure with Green Bay is the rivalries the team has with other NFL teams, especially the Detroit Lions, since he is from Southeast Michigan.
After being asked what it was like being from the Detroit area and joining a team that perennially torments Lions fans, Talley answered with a laugh.
“My family members are definitely diehard Lions fans, but I wasn’t too big of a Lions fan to tell you the truth," he said. "I saw the 0-16 Lions, so I wasn’t the biggest fan. My family gave me stuff at first, but they can definitely be two-way fans.”
As of right now, the Packers have not yet made a round of cuts from their preseason roster, so it is still difficult to forecast Talley’s chances of making the official roster. That said, whether or not he survives into the season is hardly on his mind.
“That’s one thing I’ve never been big on," he said. "I try to take it on day by day, and whatever happens, happens. They’re going to decide what they decide, and me thinking on it doesn’t help. I can only control what I control.”