By: Jessica Dempsey
Who is Victor Cruz? Besides an adept salsa dancer, as we found out after his 44-yard reception for a touchdown in the Giants’ win over the Cowboys on Monday Night Football, Cruz is a former UMass Minuteman who may be the saving grace of the Giants’ season. Prior to this season, Cruz was an overlooked bench rider, but this season has been an integral part of the Giants, playing in all 16 games, receiving 82 passes for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns. In the Giants’ last stand Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys, Cruz caught 6 passes for 178 yards and scored one touchdown that helped the Giants toward their 31-14 victory, clinching the NFC East title and a coveted spot in the playoffs.
Coach Tom Coughlin said that his new star started to show his brilliance once given an opportunity to play:
“He was willing and had the ability and put himself in positions where he could take full advantage – he just started to grow and develop … [multiple times Cruz has] given us a spark or put us in a position to win games – it is truly amazing.”
What’s even more incredible is, like many outstanding players these days, Victor Cruz did not play his college ball at Ohio State or Florida or Texas. He played at the University of Massachusetts Amherst for the Minutemen, a Division 1 team that, starting in 2012, will play in the Mid-American Conference, becoming bowl eligible in 2013. Despite not starting a game until his junior year, he finished his career at UMass with 131 catches for nearly 2,000 yards and 11 touchdowns, ranking him 4th all-time in receptions at UMass. Cruz went undrafted in the 2010 NFL Draft, but was later signed by the New York Giants. Good move, blue.
At the start of the 2010 preseason, Cruz garnered media attention by catching 6 passes for 145 yards and 3 touchdowns in a game against the New York Jets. At the end of the preseason, he led the NFL with 297 receiving yards. A hamstring injury would put him on the IR for the remainder of the season. Fans were left wanting more, having had a small taste of what the young wide receiver could accomplish.
Unlike Cam Newton, who was followed throughout his college career and into the NFL, Victor Cruz’s path is more like that of New England Patriots’ underdog success story Danny Woodhead. Skilled, but relatively unnoticed until given a chance – and it appears we have only scratched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Cruz’s skills.
What role do you think Cruz will play in the Giants’ quest for another Super Bowl ring?