Photo: Wikimedia Commons
NEW YORK – January 31, 2023 – Former New York Giants star wide receiver Victor Cruz sat down for a lively and wide-ranging conversation on the newest episode of “The Pivot Podcast” as he shared stories and insights from his memorable rise to stardom and more, which debuted Tuesday on the show’s YouTube page.
WATCH NEW EPISODE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNEP63FFjXM
Alongside co-hosts and former NFL stars Ryan Clark, Channing Crowder and Fred Taylor, Cruz recalled the inspiration he took from his mother and how the lessons she implemented early in life helped him through the tribulations he went through trying achieve his football dream.
“There were all these little things and mentors and coaches that I had in my life that aided me and made me the person that I am today,” said Cruz. “We all know those high school years are very formative…To have those people around me was really special and important and it really taught me never to quit. My mom’s only motto was ‘you never want to be a quitter’. Those things showed up all throughout my life…I knew that no matter what, I had to finish and put my all into it.”
After struggling to qualify academically to play college football, and after twice being booted from playing at the University of Massachusetts, Cruz found himself at a low point back in Community College in his hometown of Paterson, New Jersey. This moment, combined with the encouragement ringing in his mind from his mother, flipped his mindset and the trajectory of his life and career.
“I took football for granted in the beginning,” said Cruz. “I thought that when I got to that level that it was automatic that I’d get to be on the field and I’d be slid through the system. I found out it wasn’t the case very quickly. So I was back at Community College in Paterson and people were like, ‘what are you doing here?’ That humbled me real quick.”
That connection to his Paterson hometown has also helped motivate Cruz throughout his life, and well beyond his football playing career, which ended in 2016. Having only had former NBA veteran Tim Thomas as a source of hometown inspiration growing up, Cruz saw his Super Bowl victory with the 2011 Giants as a stamp that could help him inspire the youth in his hometown for generations to come.
“Winning the Super Bowl was the biggest sigh of relief, but not just to do it for myself,” said Cruz. “I was doing it for the kids in Paterson, for undrafted guys like us, to see that you can make it to this point if you work hard enough. It was important for anyone who looked at my story that there was a peak. That the confetti came down on me. That’s a moment I’ll never forget and that they can’t take from me.
“With anything I’m trying to curate or put together, the first thing I think of, is how can I get the kids involved? When I was growing up, there was nobody really coming back on a consistent basis to really talk to us and be like, this is how you do it…I wanted someone who’s been there and done it to say ‘this is how it’s done’. Now that I kind of have that torch I want to make sure that it stay ablaze, and when it goes to the next person that it’s even brighter.”
In his breakout 2011 season, Cruz became a sensation not only for his touchdown catches, but for his signature salsa dance that he broke out every time he scored. Inspired by the Latin side of his family, specifically his grandmother, Cruz has perhaps become more known for the dance than any specific achievement. Even to this day the requests for him to break out his famous moves persist, a fact that Cruz relishes in for multiple reasons.
“I’m not tired of it yet, because every time I dance I can hear the check going into the account,” said Cruz. “So it’s cool. It’s a testament to my grandmother and to my culture and who I am. Now I just make sure you’re gonna dance with me. If you want to see it, you’re gonna have to do it too. I want to make it inclusive. Because it’s supposed to be something that brings people together. It brought cultures together and got people of Spanish-descent watching football who might have never watched before.”
Cruz has remained a fixture around the Giants even after his playing career, as he played all six seasons with the franchise before he was released and not long after retired due to injury. During the episode, Cruz recalled that conversation he had where Giants owner John Mara let him go and heaped praise on the organization for how they treated him throughout his tenure.
“They saw me as someone who understands this football team and they wanted my input,” said Cruz. “That was something that I always respected. Because they didn’t have to do that…Even when they let me go, I remember going to see Mr. (John) Mara and he said that ‘this is one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make, but I promise you that your name will be in the ring of honor one day.’ They’ve done so much for my career and my life, so I’ll always show love and support for them.”
He also spends time in the episode discussing the current and future state of the Giants, who made the playoffs for the first time since Cruz’s tenure this past season, before losing in the playoffs to the Philadelphia Eagles. In the episode, Cruz offers optimism based off the team’s current situation, while noting a need for an upgrade at his old position.
“We have a great foundation to build off of, and a great coaching and management team that can propel this team to the next level,” said Cruz. “We have some decisions to make with our quarterback (Daniel Jones) and running back (Saquon Barkley). We have to go get some damn receivers to catch the ball. I love our receivers, but we had three practice squad receivers trying to go out there and catch passes. That showed more about Daniel Jones than the receiving core, because I think he raised their level of play, and ultimately that’s going to get him paid.”
Finally, at the prodding of Taylor, Cruz goes introspective and offers advice to himself at a younger age, while expressing that his biggest pivot so far was what made him the success that he is today.
“I would just tell college Vic to settle down, because college is fun, but you can have a lot more fun later,” said Cruz. “I would tell him to understand what you need to get through this phase, then get to the other side, because you’re going to love it here. The opportunities and the experiences are incredible…The biggest pivot for me was going from a boy to a man…That’s when everything changed for me.”
ABOUT “THE PIVOT PODCAST”
“The Pivot Podcast” debuted in January 2022 as popular personalities and former NFL stars Ryan Clark, Fred Taylor and Channing Crowder host a weekly sit-down with A-list stars from the sports world and beyond, delivering relevant football discussion mixed in with everyday topics that affect viewers globally.
With over 600,000 subscribers since debuting, new episodes drop on Tuesdays at 12 p.m. ET on their YouTube Channel, with audio also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Follow along on Twitter @ThePivot and Instagram @ThePivot, as well as on Facebook and Tik Tok. The podcast is produced by Shots Studios in collaboration with RFC Productions, an Emmy-award winning team committed to bringing fans the content they desire.