New York Giants Cruz’n to the Super Bowl

Cam Larkin Roar Guru

By Cam Larkin, Cam Larkin is a Roar Guru

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    A New York Giants win this Sunday in Super Bowl XLVI could make Victor Cruz’s story a Hollywood script.

    Cruz, a wide receiver out of UMass (University of Massachusetts), watched and listened over three days as 255 names including 27 wide receivers had their names called out – Cruz would not be one of them.

    He would however congratulate his UMass teammate and offensive tackle Vladimir Ducasse, who was selected by the New York Jets in the second round with the 61st pick.

    The Giants signed Cruz as an undrafted free agent in the off-season and positioned him on a depth chart behind Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Steve Smith, Rames Barden and Domenik Hixon.

    I remember watching Cruz in a 2010 preseason game against the Jets – a game that he had everyone asking, “who is this guy?” or as Jets head coach Rex Ryan said to Giants head coach Tom Coughlin after the game, “I don’t know who number three is but holy sh*t.”

    During that exhibition match, NBA superstar LeBron James was another who had his eyes on the game and took note of the rookies performance.

    James tweeted, “Victor Cruz going nuts on the Jets tonight on #MNF. Undrafted rookie from UMass. He’s gonna have a job this year for sure.”

    Interestingly, Jets assistant Brian Smith spent time at UMass on the coaching staff including a stint as receivers coach in ’05-’06.

    Smith had to confirm to Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine that Cruz wasn’t an option quarterback, (a QB that can also run the ball if no one is open) but in fact a wide receiver because Pettine had no idea who he has.

    Cruz’s awesome performances got him a spot of the 53-man Giants regular season roster however after just three games, Cruz was placed on injury reserve because of a hamstring injury.

    Due to free agency and injuries, the second year pro gained field time including playing in 16 regular season-games this season (three in 2010) and thrived on the big stage.

    Cruz pulled in nine TDs in the regular season however he is yet to record a score in the playoffs. In conference championship game against San Francisco, Cruz was Eli Manning’s favourite target, large because Hakeem Nicks was on the sidelines with a shoulder injury.

    It has been a breakout season for Cruz and a 100 plus yardage effort with a first post-season TD is on the cards. Against the Patriots during their matchup in the regular season in Foxborough, the 25-year old was the Giants leading receiver with six catches and 91 yards but no TD.

    What I like about Cruz is the story of being undrafted, of being undervalued and scraping and clawing to make an NFL roster. That was on the start.

    Cruz had to then show he had the skills that the Giants scouts eventually saw in him. He did that – just watch highlights of his game against the Jets that I mentioned above. Smith didn’t even think he’d make it in the NFL.

    During the NFL lockout, Cruz was fortunate enough to get a call from Giants quarterback and 2007 Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning.

    Initially taken back that Manning was calling him, Cruz answered and was invited to work with the QB – this would be time highly treasured by the young wide out who continually picked Manning’s brain.

    This weekend, Manning and Cruz will put what they learned from each other on the Hoboken High School football field into practice in the biggest NFL match of the season.

    This Sunday, one line you won’t hear come out of the mouth of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is, “who is this Cruz guy?”

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    The Crowd Says (6)

    • January 31st 2012 @ 11:46am
      B.A Sports said | January 31st 2012 @ 11:46am | ! Report

      The NFL is littered with some great stories of guys who were not high draft picks/not drafted – Tom Brady in the 6th Round at #199 is arguably the most famous.

      Indeed Cruz’s team mate and the defensive captain of the Giants, Justin Tuck was the 74th overall pick (3rd Round) back in 2005. He will be an All-pro (especially if he wins a 2nd Superbowl) so with hindsight he is a first rounder every time.

      I love Victor Cruz (a tough thing to say about anyone in a NY uniform of any kind). I have seen him interviewed a couple of times, including on DLHQ and he seems like a great guy. He will be a tough matchup for the Pats defence. He had a reasonable day against them when they met earlier in the year and in a dome where Eli can air it out he will be tough to contain.

    • January 31st 2012 @ 2:20pm
      Al said | January 31st 2012 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

      “Tom Brady in the 6th Round at #199 is arguably the most famous”. This episode proves that NFL drafting is flawed, where 40 yard dash, bench press and vertical leap results are ridciulously over-prioritised. Giovanni Carmazzi was taken by Brady’s hometown 49ers 130 odd picks before Brady not because he was the better QB but because he was the better athlete.

    • January 31st 2012 @ 2:27pm
      mushi said | January 31st 2012 @ 2:27pm | ! Report

      The undrafted always make for a feel good tale. I’d go with Dick Night Trane Lane as the top one – from undrafted to the all time NFL team. Cruz still has a way to go to even make the starting roster of the all undrafted team.

      • Roar Guru

        January 31st 2012 @ 3:35pm
        Cam Larkin said | January 31st 2012 @ 3:35pm | ! Report

        Always goos to hear your thoughts Mushi. For the Giants, Cruz could finish his excellent year with an amazing game in the Bowl – he has that potential.

        In tomorrow’s article for Super Bowl week, I am looking at TE Rob Gronkowski.

        I will also be live blogging the game for TheRoar on Monday.

        • January 31st 2012 @ 5:45pm
          mushi said | January 31st 2012 @ 5:45pm | ! Report

          I’d love to take a look but will hopefully be in a sports bar in down town NY!

        • January 31st 2012 @ 6:07pm
          mushi said | January 31st 2012 @ 6:07pm | ! Report

          Football is just such a tough game to judge the transition from college to pros. With realistically 10 to 15 plus players being key contributors to your team’s success, coaches and system fit having such a major role and the disparity in talent between teams means it is tough to look a guys production and say that was “his” production. So instead we do the “eye’ test and one thing your eyes do is lie to you, or more importantly selectively notice things.

          Intersting you say Gronkowski, Gates – the proto type – was undrafted I think. Now TE’s are arguably more important than WRs

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