Victor Cruz has had his last dance in the National Football League as he officially retired on Tuesday the 21st of August after keeping the door open for a return to the New York Giants on Tuesday Cruz closed the door on that chance ending his incredible underdog story.
Cruz the former Giants receiver announced through the Uninterrupted media platform that one chapter of his life had come to an end, but another was about to begin. Cruz announced he would be joining the ”dark side” of professional sports as Cruz will be joining ESPN contributing to shows like NFL Live, Get Up!, SportsCenter, ESPN Radio, and other ESPN platforms year-round. Cruz will begin his media career with ESPN on Wednesday the 22nd of August on Get Up! and SportsCenter programming.
“As I officially close one chapter of my life and begin another, I could not be more thrilled to join another championship team at ESPN,” said Cruz. “I’m excited to get started and share my insight and analysis with the viewers and fans of the NFL.”
His incredible career that includes a Superbowl ring and a 2012 pro bowl selection came to an end after Cruz exhausted every possibility to reclaim his career, but he finally put to an end his dream of playing in the NFL again. Injuries would take Cruz’s dream away from him with the most significant injury coming back in October of 2014 where Cruz would suffer a torn patellar tendon after he was chasing a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles. Rehab was tough for Cruz with multiple setbacks that wouldn’t see Cruz fully return to the field until the 2016 season against the Dallas Cowboys. In his return, Cruz would catch a touchdown pass, but it wouldn’t be what Cruz and the Giants fanbase would hope it to be with Cruz getting cut at the end of the season because of salary cap reasons ending the special bond that had built between Cruz, the Giants, and Big Blue.
Cruz is not unfamiliar with struggle or tragedy as he discussed in his New York Times bestsellers list autobiography ”Out of the Blue” on how he was back in Paterson, New Jersey in spring of 2007 when he received a call from his brother. His brother informed Cruz of his father Mike Walker, a retired Paterson, New Jersey firefighter, who had gotten injured in an unfortunate car accident and suffered from depression, had committed suicide.
The news devastated Cruz but as he has done many times before he regrouped and would power forward taking the memory of his father with him on his journey to superstardom and superstardom Cruz would reach.
Cruz exploded onto the scene in the Giants third preseason game against crosstown rivals the New York Jets in 2010 Cruz at the time wearing the number three jersey lit up the newly built Met Life stadium for the first time and ultimately not the last as it would eventually become his playground. Cruz had been a standout in training camp quickly rising in the depth chart and grabbing the eyes of Giants coaches. Not enough for him to be a starter but he was rapidly on his way as Cruz stepped on the field to replace the first team and wasted little time scoring a 64-yard touchdown and the rest, as they say, is history Cruz would finish his night with six receptions for 145 yards and three touchdowns in the Giants’ 31-16 win. It wasn’t just Giants people Cruz had impressed it was opposition coaches, and NBA superstars also, Jets head coach at the time Rex Ryan would be heard telling Giants head coach Tom Coughlin “I don’t know who No. Three is, ” “but holy (shoot).” Cruz had arrived, and there were witnesses, one being NBA legend LeBron James.
Victor Cruz going nuts on the Jets tonight on #MNF. Undrafted rookie from UMass. He’s gonna have a job this year for sure.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 17, 2010.
Cruz was Odell Beckham Jr before Odell Beckham Jr if you don’t believe me see for yourself.
The Victor Cruz story is extraordinary, and if you hadn’t seen it for yourself, you would have thought it was a made up Hollywood movie. Cruz fought for every one of his 4,549 career yards going from almost getting kicked out of his college of UMass to then going undrafted to scoring a touchdown in the Superbowl for the New York Giants ultimately defeating the New England Patriots. The Victor Cruz journey is one of fairytales.
Cruz would go on to prove he wasn’t a flash in the pan though or a one season wonder after having a debut season of 82 receptions for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns Cruz would go on to get 86 receptions in his second season for 1,092 yards for a career-high 10 touchdowns earning him his first and only pro bowl selection. Cruz fell two yards short of making it three seasons in a row of 1,000 plus yards but that is where things started to go south for Cruz and his career as he would suffer his significant injury in 2014 only recording 23 receptions for 337 yards and one touchdown.
Cruz would get cut at the end of the 2016 season where he would start well making some big-time plays for the Giants but he would eventually get iced by the Giants, and it would end a beautiful relationship between Cruz and the Giants. Cruz would try to continue his career getting picked up by the Chicago Bears, but he wasn’t able to make the 53 man roster. Sometimes a player and team are perfect matches for each other, and that was Cruz and the Giants once they parted ways it was always going to be tough ever to see Cruz wearing anything but the iconic blue 80 jersey.
For everything Cruz accomplished in his career, there is one thing that will forever be remembered in the career of Victor Cruz. That is his signature touchdown celebration which was his grandmother’s Lucy Molina salsa dance, and if you told Cruz, he would only be remembered because of something his grandmother taught him I think he would give you the famous Victor Cruz smile and say that’s pretty cool. Molina has her fingerprints all over Cruz’s football career from his salsa dance to the way he carries himself in the media and his relationship with his fans she installed her morals and values in a young Cruz, and it helped him in the limelight he would go on to face. Molina would sadly pass away at the age of 77 and Cruz would once again have to display his toughness.
”She meant the world to me,” Cruz said. “Besides my mom, she practically raised me. So it’s obviously something tough to go through, but you just have to take it in stride. Understand that it was her time to go. And God just wanted another angel up there with him.” Cruz told NJ.com
Cruz would score against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that same week and honor his ”Abuela” which is Spanish for grandmother. Cruz is very proud of his Puerto Rican heritage.
Cruz from that fateful night in New Jersey against the Jets has had a special connection to his fanbase, and his fanbase is varied from megastars like LeBron James and J.Cole to little kids in Patterson, New Jersey. Cruz was likable from his first snap making highlight-reel catches or a record 99-yard touchdown against the Jets Cruz was a walking highlight reel, and the fans absolutely loved it. Cruz wasn’t all flash though he had a dog in him as he showed in the 2011 playoff run when the Giants came up against the San Francisco 49ers where Cruz would put in a workmanlike performance to help his team advance going for 10 receptions for 142 yards Cruz lit up the 49ers secondary. Cruz was a fighter, and at six feet tall Cruz was fighting with monsters as this stat shows only Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall had more 100-yard receiving games than Cruz from 2011 to Week 6 of the 2014 season simply put Cruz was phenomenal.
What Cruz achieved shouldn’t be a prisoner of his injuries he was an electric superstar who at the peak of his powers was genuinely elite and capable of making him the best receiver on a Superbowl winning side. He will now take his drive over to ESPN and leave an impact in the sports media field as he did on the football field.
Victor Cruz was a fairytale story with a tragic ending but what a journey it was.