Enough with Tim Tebow’s “They said I couldn’t…” advertisements. Why don’t we instead talk about a guy who really defied odds by getting himself into the NFL, and now onto its biggest stage, in a most unlikely fashion.
New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz barely got a sniff from Bowl Championship Subdivision college programs coming out of high school and instead headed to Massachusetts. He didn’t get drafted by an NFL team, but took advantage of an opportunity and made a team. Then, last year, he missed most of the season on injured reserve. This year Cruz finished third in the league with more than 1,500 yards and caught nine touchdown passes. Now he’s days away from playing a key role in the Super Bowl.
Victor Cruz joined WEEI in Boston with Dennis & Callahan to discuss the differences between this year and last, the complex Giants passing offense, Eli Manning, whether Manning is an elite quarterback, what it was like to not get drafted, David Tyree’s Super Bowl catch and his father’s role in his life.
What’s been the biggest difference for you in terms of production this year compared to last?:
“Last year was a time where it was an adjustment period for me for those first few weeks of the season. I got nicked up, which put me on IR last year. … I used that IR year to just learn the playbook, understand how the NFL works, really get acclimated to playing in the NFL mentally. This year, it’s just being confident, understanding what’s being asked of me and understanding the playbook and learning the intricacies of the NFL. I believe that hard work has been beneficial.”
Is the Giants’ offense complicated?:
“Yes, our passing offense is very complicated and has different nuances and different ins and outs, so many different things you can do, so many adjustments off of different coverages. You have to stay aware and have to stay on top of your game, especially with the fast play-calling system.”
What’s different with Eli Manning this year to last?:
“I think it’s more just that confidence, just being in the huddle, being calm and understanding that we’re going to get the job done. He’s exuding that confidence to all of the team and we’re following suit. We understand that that calmness and that confidence in the two-minute drills or on the end-of-game drives, we’re going to perform to the best of our ability and capitalize when we need to.”
Do you consider him an elite quarterback?:
“Most definitely. I think a lot of people forget that he’s a Super Bowl MVP quarterback and does some great things in some tough situations in the past. Playing in New York is tough, man, because you don’t get a lot of the credit. A lot of the people see a lot of the bad things and harp on that, but he’s a great quarterback. I believe he should be up there with the Bradys and Rodgers and guys like that, because he’s doing those same things.”
What was it like when you didn’t get drafted?:
“I understood where I came from. I understood my role whereas I-AA guys don’t really get drafted as much, especially skill guys in my position. They’ll take a guy from a I-A over a guy like me. I just wanted the opportunity. I just knew a phone call would come through where I would get a practice opportunity or a free agent tryout or something like that and I just wanted to make the most of it.”
You had some great catches this year, but what’s it like to know that you can never have the best catch in Giants history because of David Tyree?:
“Oh yeah, he’s got it. He’s got it, because of the situation and how he did it and how that propelled them to win the game and it was the Super Bowl. He’s got that catch all day.”
On his father’s role in setting him straight in life, athletics and school:
“He was a hard-nosed dad that didn’t take no for an answer and expected the best out of me. He got that out of me. I’m very thankful to have had a dad like that in my life.”