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Victor Cruz is a Pro Bowl wide receiver for the New York Giants. In 2011, his first full year for the team, he helped lead the club to victory in Super Bowl XLVI.
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American football receiver Victor Cruz was born November 11, 1986, in Paterson, New Jersey. A standout high school athlete, Cruz eventually starred for the University of Massachusetts. After going undrafted in 2010, Cruz signed with the New York Giants. The following season, Cruz had a breakout year, setting a club record in receiving yards and leading the franchise to a Super Bowl victory.
"I think I've got some more big plays left in me."
Victor Cruz was born in Paterson, New Jersey, on November 11, 1986. The son of Michael Walker, an African-American firefighter, and Puerto Rican–born Blanca Cruz, young Victor came up in a Paterson that was dominated by gangs and drugs. Opportunities, especially for young boys of color like himself, were few.
"In the city, a lot of crime happens, a lot of violence happens from time to time," he later said. "Growing up in Paterson wasn't the easiest thing."
But his parents, who never married, kept their son on a tight leash and made sure he never stayed idle. For Cruz's father, that meant pushing his son into athletics, football in particular.
At Paterson Catholic High School the slender (just 165 pounds) and short (5'9") Cruz starred on the football field, as both a receiver and a kick returner. But poor college boards denied him the chance at any scholarships. Instead, after graduating in 2004, Cruz enrolled at Bridgton Academy in Maine, where he did a postgraduate year to boost his academics and continue to play football.
With improved test scores, Cruz enrolled at the University of Massachusetts in the fall of 2005. The football team redshirted him that season, with the hope he'd be ready to play the following year. But poor grades forced Cruz to leave the school and return to Paterson to regroup and take classes at a local community school to boost his college grades.
For Cruz, the year off proved to be a trying time. Embarrassed by having to live at home again, he rarely went out. Then tragedy struck when his father took his own life. His father's death forced Cruz to take his own life more seriously.
"I had to be the man of the family," he later told The New York Times. "It was up to me not to waste the opportunities I had been given. I had to study and work. There was still light at the end of the tunnel for me, and while it might have been dim, I had to run to it with everything in me."
That next fall, Cruz re-enrolled at UMass. On the field, Cruz turned himself into one of the most acclaimed receivers in the program's history and finished in the top 10 in several career statistics even though he played just two seasons as a full-time team starter.
Despite the numbers, Cruz went undrafted in the 2010 NFL draft. While several teams inquired about bringing him in as a free agent, Cruz eventually signed with his hometown New York Giants.
But a breakout rookie year was not in the cards. A serious hamstring injury forced the young receiver to miss most of the 2010 season.
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