Victor Cruz: The Unbreakable Soul

FILE: Victor Cruz Close to Deal With Giants

I think it’s safe to say Victor Cruz has been through a lot. Nothing has ever come easy for him since his days growing up in Paterson, New Jersey. He has had to fight for everything even when he was at the top. It seems there is always another obstacle that plants itself in front of Cruz, but he always finds away to get past it. This is why Cruz is my absolute favorite player in the NFL. I have simply adored his fairytale story and his determination to be the best no matter what bump he hits on his road to greatness. And even though he hasn’t played every single game like his quarterback Eli Manning, if Cruz can rebound from his injuries this season he will prove to be the ultimate iron man. Not because of his ability to play every game, something he definitely hasn’t done, but because of his unbreakable soul.

Like I mentioned earlier there has just been a long list of obstacle after obstacle for Victor Cruz. Despite all these obstacles, he has managed to attack every single one with the same determination and hunger to overcome it. The attitude has resulted in nothing but positives, as it has made Cruz both a better player and a better person. This guy has never let his fame and stardom get to him. He has always stayed humble and been thankful for his blessings time and time again. Let’s take a look at some of these obstacles Vic’s been able to overcome and why his most recent one will become just another book on the shelf.

It started all the way back in high school. Vic attended Paterson Catholic High School and even though he put up some very productive numbers and earned All-State Honors in his senior year while his team went undefeated, he had a hard time getting offers from top-level colleges. Although he did land a smaller division one school, the University of Massachusetts, Cruz struggled to combine his football with his academics, resulting in him getting sent home multiple times throughout his collegiate career. He was able to turn himself around, though, and go on to finish fourth all-time in receptions at UMass with 131.

When it came to draft day, Cruz unfortunately didn’t get the call that every NFL hopeful dreams of, but that once again didn’t stop him. Due to his impressive pro day, he got a signed by the New York Giants the very next day after the draft had ended. Cruz may have gone undrafted and had a very tough hill to climb if he wanted to make the Giants 53-man roster, but he was ready for the challenge. The first time the world started to notice Cruz was August 16, 2010 during the Giants annual Snoopy Bowl against their hometown rival New York Jets. Cruz exploded on the scene with 6 catches for 145 yards and 3 touchdowns. He went on to finish the preseason first in the league in receiving yards and tied for first in touchdowns. He was able to climb the hill and make the Giants 53-man roster. Despite Vic’s preseason stardom, the 2010 season unfortunately was not a continuation of that. He only played three games before being placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. But next season is an entirely different story.

Entering the 2011 season Cruz had his best chance ever of getting significant playing time, with wide receiver Steve Smith signing elsewhere in free agency and wide receiver Domenik Hixon getting injured, and he jumped all over that chance. His NFL stardom kicked off week 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Cruz was huge, racking up his first two NFL touchdowns and 110 receiving yards to go along with it. But that was just the beginning. Cruz was the savior the Giants needed all season long, becoming one of the NFL’s most dangerous wide receivers and helping the Giants win their fourth Super Bowl. He racked up 1,536 receiving yards, which is a Giants single-season record, and 9 touchdowns on 82 catches. Despite being snubbed from the Pro Bowl, Cruz got second-team All-Pro honors. He finally made it big time.

The 2012 season would prove to be more of the same, as Cruz showed the world that he was no one-hit wonder. He totaled 1,092 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns on 86 receptions. He earned a trip to the Pro Bowl and signed a very nice 5-year, $46 million extension with the Giants in the offseason. Cruz was becoming one of the premiere players in the NFL. And then the unthinkable happened.

On week 6 of the 2014 NFL season, Cruz went down with no contact while trying to make an easy touchdown catch. Watching the play it looks like a regular dropped pass. Cruz didn’t land on anything in an awkward position, he didn’t suffer any contact, so the initial though of everyone was that it wasn’t anything serious. But then you saw Cruz just lying on the ground, not moving at all and screaming in pain. Oh no. I remember watching this play and just feeling my heart drop to the floor and shatter into a million pieces. There he was, my NFL idol, not being able to move and having to get placed on the stretcher by medical staff. I was crushed and frantically trying to find out any information I could. Later on I found out the news nobody was hoping to hear; Cruz tore his patellar tendon. His season was over and his career was even called into question since that injury is so severe. Every time I see that play even to this day I still get chills all over my body.

Now, almost two full years after that horrific day, Cruz is finally back. I couldn’t be any happier. I’m sure he and the rest of his Giants family feel the same way. The time is now for Victor to really prove the haters and doubters wrong for good.

It pains me to see such a humble and unselfish man have to go through so much. I desperately hope Cruz comes back and is able to overcome yet another road block that stands in his path. We all do. But if you ask him how he feels about possibly never being the same I’m almost positive he wouldn’t be worried at all. Why? Because it’s just more of the same for Vic when it’s all said-and-done. Yes he’s never had an injury like this before and isn’t used to not playing for so long, but he’s very used to being doubted and having to get past obstacles. Nothing new here folks.

So this Sunday I will be as excited as anybody to watch my NFL hero back out there salsa-dancing in the end zone. I have no doubt that Cruz will come back better than ever and pick up right where he left off. Hopefully Vic is done having to overcome obstacles. Hasn’t he had enough already? But if another one ever does hit him on his way to glory I know he will be able to break free of the tackle like he always has done. The reason for this? His unbreakable soul.





Assessing the Kaepernick Controversy

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been making lots of headlines recently, and not for the reasons you would normally expect. Rather than drawing attention from his play on the football field, he’s been drawing attention by standing on the sidelines, or sitting actually.

During the national anthem at the 49ers preseason games, Kaepernick has refused to stand and honor our country due to the very real issue of racial oppression that still takes place in America today. Kaepernick made his intentions clear when he said “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Since then Kaepernick has also made clear that he is not anti-American and does not want to show any disrespect to the military or any other good service that is worshipped through the national anthem. He backed up his words by having a long conversation with former soldier and brief Seahawks long-snapper Nate Boyer on coming up with ways to make this protest not offensive to anybody who finds it so. That is why at the most recent preseason game against the Chargers, Kaepernick was kneeling next to Boyer instead of sitting like he did at the previous game. With all that being said, here is how I feel about it.

There are a number of different ways that one can react to a peaceful but powerful protest like this. Kaepernick has received a lot of hate and negative reviews for his actions, which is expected, but he has done a very intelligent job of taking in that criticism and speaking out about it. He has made himself look like less of a villain and more of a man who simply wants to fix the problem of racism in the United States without showing disrespect to anything else. And I believe he is. Look, Kaepernick is simply a man using his fame and power to try and make the country he lives in a better place in the most peaceful way possible. In the beginning when he sat during the anthem he was being disrespectful to the military and all the good things that the flag stands for across the country, but he realized that and took the extra step necessary by kneeling to brush off his negative image and make it known that he meant no harm. Kaepernick deserves creds for that.

But with all that being said there were a number of ways Kaepernick could have gone that wouldn’t have produced a negative image at all and instead would have saved him from all this chaos to begin with. For example, he could have worn something on him that drew attention to injustice in society, or he could have written an article on The Player’s Tribune about his feelings, or maybe he could have started a campaign in an effort to ultimately put an end to racial oppression. He even could’ve at least announced what he was going to do in regards to sitting out the national anthem before he did it instead of just doing it out-of-the-blue to in a way soften the blow a little. There are a countless number of ways Kaepernick could have attacked this problem, and he chose the bravest and gutsiest one of them all.

I, for one, would not perform such a bold move like this and I’m sure many others wouldn’t as well. But even though his actions are pretty extreme, I support Kaepernick because he had the guts to do it and he had the right intentions in mind. The problem of racism has been a main cause of concern in the United States especially for centuries now. With racial oppression continuing even in the modern day, most recently with the police brutality killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, it is very important for people with fame and power to take a stand once and for all. The NBA has already started it with stars such as Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul, and most notably Carmelo Anthony speaking out and calling out others. It’s nice to see that Kaepernick has received that message and has begun to take a stand himself.

If it were a week ago I would have whole-heartedly disagreed with Kaepernick’s actions. But since then he has said and done all the right things to back up his position. He’s just a man who is willing to do whatever it takes to change the United States for the better. So even though there were better ways to achieve that same goals, as I mentioned earlier, I applaud this man for doing what he did. This will pay off and make a difference in the long run. Good job Kaepernick.