OXNARD, Calif. -- New York Giants rookie free-agent wide receiver Victor Cruz said he'd done "one or two" interviews leading up to his outrageous performance against the Jets on "Monday Night Football." The former UMass star says he's averaged "12 per day" since Tuesday, including an entertaining appearance on ESPN Deportes.
Cruz grew up about 15 minutes away from Giants Stadium (I know the name's changed) in Paterson, N.J., so I asked whether he grew up cheering for the Giants or Jets. Giants fans may want to skip the next couple of paragraphs.
"I was actually a Cowboys fan," Cruz said without a hint of shame. "My Dad always used to watch the Cowboys, so that was our team. I had a Deion Sanders jersey that I wore all the time."
So when Cruz used his left hand to push off a Jets defensive back while making a miraculous one-handed catch with his right, did he have a certain wide receiver in mind?
"You're the first person who's brought that up," Cruz said. "I guess that did look a little like Michael Irvin. I've seen enough highlights over the years where that may have just become a natural thing."
Cruz has returned to the scout team in practice and he's vowed not to let the breakout performance go to his head. Veterans told him in practice Wednesday, "you better do it next week, too." But it's the head coach's words that have really stuck with Cruz.
"In the locker room after the game, Coach [Tom] Coughlin says, 'there's no mistake who this game ball goes to.' It was an awesome feeling.'"
Cruz handed the ball to his mother, Blanca, after the game for safekeeping. He said his mom was dead set against him playing Pop Warner football growing up, but the first time she walked into the stadium, Cruz was racing for a touchdown. She gave up at that point and started enjoying the ride.
Cruz said some of the big programs such as Rutgers would show up at Paterson Catholic High School to visit with him, but they didn't show much interest. Hofstra made a strong run at him, but he decided on UMass. He posted remarkable numbers for the Minutemen, but he never knew if he belonged in the NFL.
"We were in camp a couple weeks ago and I had about six catches during a practice," said Cruz. "I pretty much knew that afternoon that I had a shot at making it."
For now, Cruz seems to be taking his newfound stardom in stride. He said it was "surreal" to find out that LeBron James had tweeted about his performance. Cruz began the game with 400 followers on Twitter. He looked at his phone during our interview and the count was up to 1,800. Now he just needs Trey Wingo to give him a re-tweet and things will really get out of hand.
"It's definitely crazy," Cruz said. "But now it's time to focus on what I'm going to do next."
Cruz has almost made preseason football palatable. He watched film of Anquan Boldin all through college and he feels like he has some of the same tools -- strong hands and a thick frame, for instance. And for all the Giants fans who wanted GM Jerry Reese to trade for Boldin a couple of years ago, maybe Cruz can some day fill that void.
At the least, he can get us through the preseason.