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Pat’s Perspectives: Honoring Victor Cruz

Victor Cruz’s rags-to-riches story reminds us that good things do come to those willing to work for it.

NFL: New York Giants at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

I might be a grown woman, but there is still a little girl inside of me who has a penchant for the rags-to-riches story of Cinderella.

Many nights when I can’t write another word, I grab my iPad and settle down in my own little chair in my own little corner of my home where I spend those last few minutes winding down before bed cheering on the heroine as she overcomes her mean stepmother and stepsisters in her quest to find her own personal glory and true love.

That’s one of the reasons why I’ve always enjoyed covering receiver Victor Cruz. When I think back to the 2010 training camp, I don’t think there was anyone—including yours truly—who thought Cruz was anything more than camp fodder.

But the local kid overcame the meanness of the disbelievers—and unlike Cinderella, he did so without the help of a kind, fairy godmother. Instead, Cruz put his head down and worked so hard that he’d probably put Cinderella’s valiant efforts to shame if she were a real person.

For all the blood, sweat and tears that Cruz poured into his craft, when he finally had his coming-out game against the Jets during the preseason, it was the start of a long-lasting love affair between the Paterson, New Jersey native and the Giants fan base.

Cruz, like the mystery princess the prince embraced at the ball, disappeared for a period, this due to a season-ending injury suffered three games into his rookie season that landed him on injured reserve.

But it wasn’t too long before the Giants matched the proverbial glass slipper to the person who lost it during his whirlwind breakthrough. Cruz would go on to take advantage of an injury to receiver Brandon Stokely by playing his heart out.

The rest, as they say, is history. Cruz would go on to win a Super Bowl championship, earn a Pro Bowl berth, become a father and be voted as a team captain as he became the face of the franchise.

Unfortunately, the clock struck midnight for Cruz when a gruesome knee injury suffered, of all places, on the turf of Lincoln Financial Field threatened to turn Cruz back into the just another receiver—assuming he made it back from that injury.

To his credit, Cruz wouldn’t accept being told he was finished. Showing valor and determination, he worked his way back from injury, not once but twice over a two-year span.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Arizona Cardinals
Victor Cruz unsuccessfully tried to catch on with the Chicago Bears after his Giants career ended.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Although he was not the same player when he returned, that he was able to overcome what many people believed would be the end of his career and contribute one last time to his hometown team, to thrill people one last time with his signature Salsa touchdown celebration dance, and to hear the roar of the crowd was the kind of ending that only Cruz could have masterfully penned.

When the clock struck midnight again and Cruz was released by the Giants in a salary cap saving move, he stubbornly refused to let external circumstances dictate the end of his career.

He signed with the Chicago Bears, but he never made it to a regular-season game. Even after he was cut, he hoped to catch on with another team—he dropped hints about hoping to return to the Giants after they lost receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris in Week 5 last year—but there were no takers.

Facing reality, Cruz has since done the honorable thing. He moved on and now has that chance at happily ever after. He will continue with his various fashion and philanthropy endeavors.

He will continue being a father to his daughter Kennedy and working tirelessly to inspire others who hope for the same rags-to-riches outcome that he so masterfully pulled off.

He will continue to smile and light up the lives of those with whom he comes in contact because even when the football wasn’t there, Cruz has always been the same humble and down-to-earth guy he was before he became a household name.

From a personal perspective, Cruz is one of the most personable and professional Giants players I’ve ever had the pleasure of covering.

There are some players and coaches who simply can’t outlast the media; Cruz, who announced as part of his retirement video that he’s joining ESPN as an analyst, found a way to do it, just as he found a way to overcome all those wicked naysayers who saw him as nothing more than camp fodder.

In fact one day I asked him how he could be so patient standing there answering the same questions over and over. He’d simply shrug, then smile and say that if people cared enough to ask, the least he could do was answer.

That was the magic of Victor Cruz, a true Giant through and through and a guy who hopefully this year take his rightful place in the team’s Ring of Honor which would be the crowning achievement to his rags to riches journey.

Even Cinderella would be proud.

Random thoughts

I really hope I’m wrong, but I don’t have a warm and fuzzy feeling about the Giants chances of landing a swing tackle once roster cuts are made.

If they are to get that key piece of the puzzle, they might just have to trade for the player, something they probably won’t do unless they’re backed into a corner.

It might be worth mentioning that as of now, the Giants do not have their third-round draft pick (due to the Sam Beal supplemental draft selection (or one of their seventh-round picks (due to the Riley Dixon trade).

So my guess is the Giants will roll with what they have for the time being and hope that nothing bad happens to either Nate Solder or Ereck Flowers.

Speaking of the offensive line, I zeroed in on Jon Halapio’s shotgun snaps at practice.

To put it simply, they lack zip and that’s a concern because if ever there is a strong wind gust or even worse, an opponent who is so quick off the snap that he can shoot into the backfield in a snap, those lobs Halapio has been sending back to quarterback Eli Manning will come back to haunt the team.