PATERSON, NJ - Super Bowl champion, Pro Bowl player, and an NFL co-record holder for making a 99-yard reception are just a few of the accolades that Paterson native son Victor Cruz earned during his football career.
However, fame and fortune have never prevented the humble superstar from returning to, and remembering, his roots.
Since his NFL rookie season in 2010, Cruz has become a household name, even to those who are not ardent gridiron fans. Thanks to his generosity, the Paterson hero is almost as well known for his philanthropic efforts, including those on behalf of the Paterson Boys and Girls Club that he attended as a youth, as he is for his end zone dances.
Under sunny skies on Saturday the sports legend lent his name again to the third annual Victor Football Youth Camp, welcoming dozens of energetic youngsters to Baurle Field. Directed by Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, who also serves as the city’s director of recreation, the aspiring superstars were joined by Cruz, who, along with several area coaches, demonstrated passing, running, blocking skills, and agility drills.
“Today we taught the kids a number of agility drills including the Circle-8 and the ladder drill,” Tahrik Brown, a former JFK Knights standout and incoming Eastside High School 9th grade squad assistant coach, explained. “We also showed the pop-up drill. That is when a player has been hit, they can stop their fall to the ground with an outstretched hand and arm and then pop back up and keep on running.”
At the concluding trophy presentation, Cruz addressed the tired, but attentive youngsters.
“The fact that you came here today and you were out there means that you want to get better,” the longtime wide receiver for the New York Giants said. “My story is one of perseverance. No matter what happens, you must preserve not only in athletics, but also in academics.”
“Some of you here today might think that sometimes you are right and your parents are wrong. But they’ve been there before, they want to help you.”
Cruz opened up the final field forum for questions, and didn’t back down from any of them.
“Is your Super Bowl ring heavy?” the voice of an elementary-aged participant sounded, with Cruz responding that while he wasn’t wearing it at the time it is indeed a heavy piece of jewelry.
“Who is better, you or Odell Beckham Jr?” came the next question to which Cruz pointed out that he was, in fact, the only one of the two superstars to have the aforementioned Super Bowl ring.
“I am a big fan of Odell but I am upset that he now plays for the Cleveland Browns rather than the Giants,” he added, perhaps showing a future in diplomacy.
Caught off guard by a query about what one of the aspiring gridiron stars perceived as current Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning’s inability to throw, Cruz was quick to predict that the man he caught many passes from during his career will “prove his critics wrong” this year.
Always with an allegiance to the hometown Giants Cruz also admitted that growing up he was a Dallas Cowboys fan, drawing more than one hiss.
While each player left the field for the day with an assortment of goodies, and three “MVPs” became the new proud owners of an autographed pair of shoes from Cruz’s designer sports line, it was the memories they took with them that will have the lasting impact, Wimberly told TAPinto Paterson.
“The young players today got to see someone from their neighborhood that really made it, and has turned that into a life of giving,” Wimberly said. “They might not all go on to win rings, but they can all go on to be champions in their own right.”
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