He embarked on a football coaching career just months after graduating from Boston University in 1991.
Robert Talley was on the staff at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst for five seasons, then worked as an assistant coach at Colby College and Dartmouth College.
His hopes of becoming a head coach at the college level, though, were not being realized, so Talley decided to take another route.
The native of Staten Island, N.Y., became a special assistant to San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Nolan and worked as an assistant offensive line coach, spending 2005 and 2006 in the NFL.
It was a move that Talley hoped would eventually open the door and earn him a head coaching job in college.
“The reason I went to the NFL,’’ said Talley, “was to make myself more attractive to be a college head coach.
“Two years in the NFL, it was almost ridiculous how much football knowledge I was able to take from that, just organizational knowledge of how to run an entire program.’’
Everything that Talley, a standout defensive back at BU, learned with the 49ers has come in handy in his first head coaching job.
Hired in 2007 to take over the struggling program at Stonehill College, Talley has slowly but surely built the Skyhawks.
Stonehill had 10 straight losing years before he arrived, including a winless 1999 season and a pair of one-win seasons. The Skyhawks were playing in a highly competitive Northeast-10 Conference and just couldn’t get going.
Under Talley, Stonehill went 5-5 in his first season and were either at or just below the .500 mark the next five seasons, always making some progress.
It has all come together this fall for the Skyhawks, who are 8-2, shared the Northeast-10 regular-season championship at 8-1 and will play for the conference title on Saturday in Springfield against American International College.
Times have changed for Stonehill, which had not put together a winning season since going 8-2 in 1996 under coach Connie Driscoll.
One of the main turning points came last season when the Skyhawks, playing at home on national cable television, nearly upset third-ranked New Haven before losing in the final seconds.
“Even though we didn’t win, our kids truly believed we could beat anybody, and that’s a big hurdle to get over,’’ said Talley. “When we first got here, I remember we went down and beat Post and it was like we won the Super Bowl. Everybody was more or less shocked. The expectation wasn’t there.