It was a giant day for football fans.
New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz stopped by the Queens Theatre on July 13 for an interactive discussion about his new book and to spread the message that he’s just an ordinary guy from Paterson, New Jersey.
“I was a small town kid just like some of these kids are and I strived and I fought tooth-and-nail to get where I am today,” Cruz said. “It’s not far-fetched, it’s not out of reach, you just have to work hard and understand what you want in life.”
This time last year many fans had no idea the 25-year-old, undrafted player was on the team.
But after a breakout rookie season, where Cruz shattered the Giants record for receiving yards (1,536) and led Big Blue to its fourth Super Bowl championship, he was immediately promoted from the bottom to the top of the NFL caste system.
“There is no better role model to have here today to speak to you than Victor Cruz,” said Assemblymember Francisco Moya, who opened the meet-and-greet. “This man is somebody who really fought adversity.”
Devotees in attendance received a free bag of goodies that included a copy of the new book, “Victor Cruz: Out of the Blue,” written by Peter Schrager.
However, many fans were thrilled to just meet the man who turned the Giants season around and made salsa dancing as trendy as ice cream on a hot summer day.
“It was a crazy experience meeting Victor [Cruz],” Giants fan Obi Wilson said. “I mean I’ve heard about him. I’ve seen him on TV. This is a guy that completely changed our season.”
Hundreds of kids hugging footballs, fans sporting blue and white number 80 jerseys and supporters waving Puerto Rican flags in the auditorium erupted when Cruz took the stage next to NY1’s Budd Mishkin.
Mishkin and Cruz spent an hour talking about the wide receiver’s personal challenges, including dodging negative influences in Patterson, tragic moments of how his friend died and flunking out of college twice. There were also lighter memories such as getting respect from opposing players and how salsa dancing became his signature touchdown celebration.
The fan-favorite dance move was born after a quarterback coach approached Cruz at a practice before his first start and told him to create a move that represents his culture if he scored.
“I was like ‘coach I don’t know if I can go in there and make a pot of rice and beans,’” Cruz recounted to laughter from the audience. “Five yards away from the end zone the first thing I thought of was not ‘this is my first touchdown,’ but ‘man I got to do this dance now.’”
After the one-on-one interview, Cruz fielded questions from fans in the audience and even brought a kid to sit near him on stage, fulfilling the child’s dream to meet the pro footballer.
The meet-and-greet with Cruz is the first of a pair hosted by Time Warner Cable. At the second meet-up on July 20, Cruz will sign copies of his book near the Time Warner Cable store in Queens Center Mall.