Dave Klein was the Giants' beat
writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books
and he is one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls.
Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.
VICTOR CRUZ OFFICIALLY RETIRES, JOINS ESPN
He was a breath of fresh
air both on the field and off. He smiled more than most pro football players,
he truly appeared to enjoy the game he was playing and the adulation he received,
And now wide receiver Victor Cruz, a native of Paterson, N.J., has announced his
formal retirement from the game and will immediately become part of the ESPN broadcasting
"I will always treasure my time with the Giants," he said,
"and I will always be grateful to the team for the chance I got. But the
injuries just become too much; it was time for the next chapter to begin."
Cruz was an undrafted free agent from the University of Massachusetts, and the
local but unproven rumor is that when he made his incredible impact on the NFL,
Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick terminated the scout whose responsibility
included that "local" college.
During the seasons from 2011 through
2013, the oft-injured Cruz caught 241 passes - almost exactly 80 per game -- for
3,626 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also added 21 receptions in four playoff games
following the 2011 regular season, including a touchdown catch in the team's 21-17
victory over New England (and Belichick) in Super Bowl 26.
Cruz's term with
ESPN begins almost immediately, and he will participate in a variety of shows
including games and analysis. Cruz will join the large group of ex-NFL veterans
when he appears on Get Up! and SportsCenter. He will be a regular contributor
to those shows, as well as NFL Live.
"Victor's value was indescribable,"
said his former coach, Tom Coughlin, now an executive in charge of all football
operations with the Jacksonville Jaguars (the Giants' opening day opponents).
"Whatever we needed him to do, he did. He was a phenomenal receiver who understand
the nuances of the game and made the entire offense better."
One of his
most memorable accomplishments came in a preseason game against the Jets (which
will be duplicated Friday night), when the Giants were on their one-yard line.
Eli Manning dropped back into the end zone, looked to his right and tossed a flare
pass to Cruz, who caught it at the line of scrimmage, side-stepped two Jets and
took the ball 99 yards for an almost impossible touchdown.
After the game,
Jets' head coach Rex Ryan was asked what he needed heading into the regular season.
"Well, I wouldn't mind one of those little receivers who nobody ever heard
of who can take a ball 99 yards against a professional defense," he said.
"That kid killed us."
Cruz was emotional during his announcement.
"I just want to be remembered as the kid who wore number 80 and was from
the neighborhood of this stadium," he said. "It was my honor to play
for the hometown team and I will always cherish it."
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