Cruz Foundation holds camp for locals

Although he still considers Paterson his home and he owns a residence in Lyndhurst, Victor Cruz is no longer a member of the New York Giants.

Still, the popular pass catcher whose salsa dancing in the end zone made him a fan favorite will always be a Jersey boy.

“I have kids asking me, ‘Why did you leave?’” Cruz said at his annual Victor Cruz Foundation Football Camp for kids at Union City High School last Tuesday. “They all know I’m playing for the (Chicago) Bears now, but they still ask. I know people still look up to me and I still give my story to the world. That story began here.”

More than 200 youngsters got the chance to be with Cruz, going through different drills and running around on the unique setting of the roof of Union City High.

“I wanted to have something in my backyard for the kids,” Cruz said. “It’s a beautiful setting here. I’m always astonished with the beauty here and the view. I see these kids every year and I’ve seen them grow. I love talking with them and interacting with them. I think I’ve developed into a mentor role.”

Cruz missed the most of two seasons recovering from a horrific torn patella tendon injury in his knee, but came back in 2016 to full health. But he only had 39 catches and one touchdown last season, forcing the Giants to release him after seven years, one Super Bowl championship and one trip to the Pro Bowl.

Just last month, the Bears signed Cruz and promised the 30-year-old Cruz that he will play strictly the slot receiver, a position that Cruz is more comfortable with.

“I’ve flown back and forth (from New Jersey to Chicago) so many times that I can’t even count,” Cruz said. “It’s not that long of a flight, so I’m not complaining. But I’ve done it several times. Bottom line is that I feel good. I feel ready to go. I had good OTA (organized team activity) and a good mini-camp. I’m starting to feel good about it. I’m as ready as I’ve ever been.”

Still, there’s a piece of Cruz that feels he still should be with the Giants, a team with which he had 303 receptions and 25 touchdowns in seven seasons.

“I guess I have to turn the page and move on,” Cruz said. “I’ll play more of the slot role with the Bears. We have some great players and great people in Chicago. I haven’t had any conversations with anyone with the Giants.”

Not even Cruz’s Giants teammates?

“Oh, no, I talk to them all the time,” Cruz said. “I mean the coaches, the owners, the guys off the field. I haven’t spoken with them. But I talk to the players. (Jonathan) Casillas is from this area (born in Jersey City, raised in New Brunswick) and I talked to him about coming here today. When you play for the Giants, it’s a family. It’s hard to break away from that.”

Cruz said that he was ready to head to training camp with the Bears later this month.

“I always feel like I have something to prove,” Cruz said. “I know I have to perform. You’re only as good as your last catch. If you think you got it made, then that’s a silly mistake.”

Cruz said that he loved the turnout.

“We have almost 200 kids here,” Cruz said. “It’s a blessing. They’re all attached to the Victor Cruz name.”

As long as those kids realize that Victor Cruz is a Bear now and not a Giant, then the world would be an easier place. It didn’t make it any easier for the kids in attendance. They all felt that they were getting a chance to meet and greet the Salsa Man himself. Not many kids get that opportunity.

CAPTIONS

Former New York Giant Victor Cruz, a resident of Lyndhurst, speaks to the media during a break at the Victor Cruz Foundation Football Camp, held last week at Union City High School.

Photo by Jim Hague

Former Giant Victor Cruz captures the time of one camper’s 50-yard dash and was amazed. Photo by Jim Hague

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer