Saturday, February 24, 2018
Sports

Giants' Cruz inspires his tough hometown

PATERSON, N.J. — The word VICTORY is spelled out in the windows of Paterson's School 21, along with the phrases "Go Giants" and "Cruz Control."

It's a tribute to Victor Cruz who, in addition to being a star wide receiver on New York's Super Bowl-bound team, is also a School 21 graduate.

It is at this school, here in the 4th Ward — one of the toughest sections of this impoverished city — where Cruz's success rings perhaps most loudly.

"I respect him a lot," said Tyrie Sampson, 14. "I'm an Eagles fan but I like how he's from Paterson — shows us kids in Paterson we have dreams, too, and we can fulfill them."

Students at the K-8 school have written him letters professing their admiration. A Giants game program is taped to gymnasium doors, the word "Paterson" underlined each time it appears in his team profile.

And his former teachers are proud that the determined, respectful little boy who lit up the hallways with his now-famous smile is headed to the Super Bowl.

"Everyone is floating on air," said Sandy Macolino, Cruz's former gym teacher. "We couldn't be more excited about it."

Cruz has risen from Paterson to NFL glory, a charismatic 25-year-old about to play on the biggest stage in football.

It's an ascent made possible by hard work, talent and the support of loving parents: a mother who instilled faith and resolve, a now-deceased father who introduced him to the game and coached him in his early years.

He's fast becoming a role model to kids in his hometown. They can see themselves in him: He's Puerto Rican and black. He lived in a single-story house on East 18th Street. He didn't get sidetracked by an environment beset with drugs and violence. And he overcame academic and other setbacks.

Despite his skills, "he didn't have things on a silver platter by any means," said his godfather, Jimmy Salmon, a well-known amateur basketball coach.

Cruz is only now beginning to grasp his newfound celebrity.

"It's really starting to sink in — how rare my story is and how far I've come," he said last week.

"Every step of the way I just tried to play my hardest and whatever opportunity came my way, I just tried to take advantage of it," he said. "I understood that opportunities were going to come few and far between, and when that small window opens for me I have to jump right through it and make sure I seize that moment and that opportunity. Thank God I have."

The Victor Cruz story is one "that inspires the underdog," said Alonzo Muir, a former teammate at now-closed Paterson Catholic High School.

"It's huge for the city. … It's huge for him — it's even huge for me and I'm many miles away and every time I see him on TV it gives me the chills because, it's like, he really did it," said Muir, who shared an undefeated season with Cruz their senior year.

While at the Division I-AA University of Massachusetts, Cruz was suspended twice because of academic problems. His father, Mike Walker, died during the second suspension.

Cruz said a conversation with his mother, Blanca Cruz, when he got tossed out of UMass, was "eye-opening."

"She held me accountable for everything that I was doing — all my faults, all my rights and wrongs," said Cruz, who now lives in Lyndhurst, N.J., about 10 miles from Paterson and about 4 miles from the Giants' home, Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford. "That was the moment where I realized I had to turn into a man."

Comments
Northeast High alumnus Jon Mott wins 3rd Gasparilla 15K crown

Northeast High alumnus Jon Mott wins 3rd Gasparilla 15K crown

Roughly 20 minutes into Saturday morning's Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K, reigning champ A.J. Richmond glanced over his left shoulder to former college teammate Jon Mott and flashed a quick hand signal."He was telling me that the two guys in...
Updated: 27 minutes ago
For starters: Back to back starts for Duffy as Rays face Red Sox, 1:05

For starters: Back to back starts for Duffy as Rays face Red Sox, 1:05

3B Matt Duffy came into camp saying he felt really good and his left foot troubles, that kept him out all of 2017, were behind him.The Rays are giving him the chance to show that right away in the exhibition season with back to back starts as they fa...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The truth about the Tampa Bay Rays’ reset

The truth about the Tampa Bay Rays’ reset

The Tampa Bay Rays are not going to be very good this year.We already knew that.They have gutted a team that won 80 games last season. Among those sent packing: Evan Longoria, Corey Dickerson, Jake Odorizzi and team MVP Steven Souza Jr.Yeah, this thi...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays spring training info: Saturday at Red Sox, 1:05

Rays spring training info: Saturday at Red Sox, 1:05

Rays Saturday scheduleAt Red Sox1:05, JetBlue Park, 11500 Fenway South Drive, Fort MyersPitchers: Rays – RH Jake Faria, RH Matt Andriese, RH Dustin McGowan, LH Ryan Yarbrough, RF Chaz Roe, LH Jose Alvarado, RH Evan Scribner, RH Jose Mujica; Red...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Marlins treat Stoneman Douglas players to an afternoon of baseball

Marlins treat Stoneman Douglas players to an afternoon of baseball

BY CLARK SPENCERMiami HeraldJUPITER – A player for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School baseball team politely asked Marlins outfielder Monte Harrison if he would mind giving him a bat as a souvenir."Not only will I give you one of my bats,...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Aaron Boone gets a new view, win in spring training debut

Aaron Boone gets a new view, win in spring training debut

TAMPA  — Aaron Boone walked to home plate for his first game as a manager at any level and was greeted by Detroit's Ron Gardenhire, a 60-year-old baseball lifer back in charge of a big-league team for the first time in four years."I told h...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Live blog: 2018 Gasparilla Distance Classic

Live blog: 2018 Gasparilla Distance Classic

The Tampa Bay Times will be there for every step of this year's Gasparilla Distance Classic. Whether you'll be walking, skipping, jogging or sprinting across the 5K, 8K, 15K or half-marathon finish, join us by using #gasparillarun.(function(d, s, id)...
Published: 02/24/18
Impact of Tommy John surgery cuts deeply for Brent Honeywell, Rays

Impact of Tommy John surgery cuts deeply for Brent Honeywell, Rays

PORT CHARLOTTE – Two things that tell you a lot about Rays cocksure top prospect Brent Honeywell given Friday's crushing news that he indeed tore a ligament in his prized right arm and is headed for Tommy John surgery that will sideline him wel...
Updated: 10 hours ago
NHL trade deadline: Action picks up with three-team deal

NHL trade deadline: Action picks up with three-team deal

RALEIGH, N.C. — The  Penguins acquired center Derick Brassard from the Senators on Friday night in a three-team deal that sent defenseman Ian Cole to Ottawa and forward Ryan Reaves to the Golden Knights.The Penguins announced the deal...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Rasmus says he ditched Rays to spend time with family

Rasmus says he ditched Rays to spend time with family

SARASOTA — Colby Rasmus is making a new start with the Baltimore Orioles after taking an eight-month break from baseball.Rasmus signed a minor-league contract with the Orioles this week, after abruptly leaving the Rays in midseason. The contrac...
Updated: 10 hours ago