SNP 001: Stylin’ and Profilin’ Victor Cruz

28 Jan

Behind the Scene of Victor Cruz's photoshoot for Latin Trends Magazine

By Chris McCoy

Whether you’re an avid football fan or just a casual spectator, by now you’ve probably heard of Giants WR Victor Cruz… or at least seen his end zone dance, but what else do you know about this budding star?

The Early Years

Victor Cruz was born to Blanca Cruz on November 11, 1986. He’s half black, half Puerto Rican; growing up with a Hispanic mother he’s bilingual, speaking both English and Spanish. It’s ironic that the Giants signed him as an undrafted free agent, as he’s pretty much a homegrown kid, growing up in Paterson, NJ – about 20 miles from Manhattan.

Victor Cruz, representing Paterson Catholic, practices back in 2004 for the New Jersey North-South High School Football All-Star Game.

There he went to Paterson Catholic where he played basketball, but truly shined as a two way football star playing both wide receiver and defensive back for the Parochial Group 1 champions. His senior year he tallied 19 total touchdowns: 15 receiving, one rushing, one punt return, one kickoff return and one interception return, with the kickoff return and interception return amazingly coming within :30 seconds of game time of each other.  His play on the field earned him First Team All-North Jersey, First-Team All-Passaic County, First Team All-B.P.S.L., First Team Parochial All-State and Second- Team Associated Press All-State honors. He also played in the North-South All-Star Football Classic at Rutgers Stadium. After graduating in 2004, Cruz needed an extra semester at Bridgton Academy in North Bridgton, Maine before moving on to the University of Massachusetts.

The College Years

Before having his breakout 2008 season at UMass, Cruz sat at the FCS (I-AA) school… redshirting his freshman year and not playing at all in 2006. In 2007, he played the final 8 games of the season, recording two carries, before snatching his first reception against New Hampshire for 26 yards. He’d finish that season with that being his only reception. Coming into the 2008 season, former UMass head football coach, and now Maryland Defensive Coordinator, Don Brown had a lot of confidence in Cruz having a breakout season and finally realizing his potential as a big time playmaker.

And what a breakout year he had. He was named a College Sporting News Honorable Mention All-American, earned First Team Colonial Athletic Associatioin (CAA) All-Conference honors leading the Minutemen in receiving with 71 catches for 1064 yards and 6 TDs, leading the CAA and 13th overall in the NCAA with 88.7 ypg.  He also led the CAA and tied for 20th in the FCS (I-AA) with 5.92 receptions per game. His breakout season was just the 6th single season 1,000-yard receivering year in UMass history posting the school’s 4th best single-season receiving yards total and 5th most receptions in a year. His 2009 sounded something like this: CAA All-Conference First Team, College Sporting News Preseason Third Team All-American, Consensus Draft Services Honorable Mention All-American, Preseason All-CAA by Coaches and Phil Steele Magazine.

In basically two seasons he became UMass’ 4th leading receiver in receptions (131) and 5th in receiving yards (1,958), and while his 2009 season amassed many accolades, statistically it wasn’t as stellar as his 2008 season. While he had almost an equal yards per reception average (2008: 15.0, 2009: 14.7) and touchdowns (2008: 6, 2009: 5), he had nearly 200 less receiving yards (2008: 1064, 2009: 868), but it should be noted that he played in one less game and started in two less games.

Styling: Victor Cruz in a photo shoot for Latin Trends Magazine

Draft

Although he came from UMass, a smaller school, and had a senior season that didn’t quite match up to his junior year, Cruz still had hopes of being one of the 255 names called on draft night. Victor Cruz, however, was not uttered from the podium on either night, but he’d soon signed with the Giants, who ironically were not one of the four teams (Panthers, Bears, Chiefs, and Buccaneers) that contacted him either before or during the draft to express their interest in selecting him or signing him as a free agent.

Cruz on signing with the Giants

“This opportunity means a lot to me, coming from a relatively small school,” Cruz said. “I’m going in there to work hard. I’m going in there with an open mind, making sure I do the right things. It’s a great opportunity. I’m ecstatic about it and I’m grateful that the Giants’ organization gave me a shot.”

2010 Season

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If it’s possible to have a breakout preseason game, Cruz had a monster one: 6 receptions for 145 yards and 3 TDs in a 31-16 Giants victory over the Jets. The performance had everyone buzzing about him that night and the next day, including Pardon The Interruption (PTI) and LeBron James who tweeted this:

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Cruz went on to lead the league in preseason receiving yards with 297 and 4 TDs, and was second with 15 receptions. He of course made the Giants’ 53 man roster, and went on to play in the Giants first three games, but was held without a reception, before a hamstring injury landed him on the injured reserve for the remainder of the year.

Styling: Victor Cruz in a photo shoot for Latin Trends Magazine

2011 Season

Cruz started the 2011 season as the team’s fourth wide receiver. That all changed when Domenik Hixon tore his ACL catching a touchdown pass in week 2. Cruz only had 2 receptions for 17 yards in that game, but going into the much hyped week 3 matchup against the “Dream Team” Eagles, Cruz had first team reps at practice, and came out and shined on the field. He had 3 receptions for 110 yards and 2 TDs, including a 74 yard TD where he debuted his famous Salsa touchdown celebration dance.

Whether you picked up Cruz off waivers or missed out and paid the price for it, you know what his impact was on fantasy football this year. Despite not really coming on until week 3, Cruz set the Giants franchise record with 1,536 receiving yards this season. He also raked in 9 touchdowns. Those two feats rank him 3rd (yards) and tied for 6th (TDs) respectively among all NFL wideouts, and considering he only started 14 games, many felt he was a Pro Bowl snub. Talk about exceeding expectations. In addition to making it to the Super Bowl, Cruz’s 2012 has also seen the birth of his first daughter, Kennedy.

Cruz on his touchdown celebration

I was talking to my coach; my coach was like “Man its Hispanic Heritage Month, you gotta do something.”

Watch Victor Cruz battle Rocsi Diaz on 106th & Park

Cruz on playing so close to home

I’m excited to be home. Obviously the cons of it are everybody hitting you up for tickets, and wanting to be around… For home games we get three free [tickets], and I have to pay for the rest. My mother my little sister and my girlfriend are at every game.

Cruz on the birth of his first child

It’s amazing just to see her and to hold her in my arms… It’s been an amazing feeling, and I can’t wait to raise her and teach her all the good stuff.

Elaina Watley: Victor Cruz's fiance and mother of his new born daughter, Kennedy.

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2 Responses to “SNP 001: Stylin’ and Profilin’ Victor Cruz”

  1. Anonymous March 12, 2012 at 9:06 AM #

    victor cruz is awesome

    • Anonymous March 12, 2012 at 9:07 AM #

      i know right

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