By Jose M. Romero
The numbers are one thing. Victor Cruz, with his 77-yard touchdown catch-and-run play to give the New York Giants a 27-23 win over NFC East rival Washington, now has a touchdown reception in each of his last four games.
He has seven TDs this season. He has clearly established himself as the most reliable big-play guy for quarterback Eli Manning, coach Tom Coughlin and the New York Giants.
But when Cruz did a candid interview for HBO’s “The Latino List: Volume Two,” that is now airing on the cable TV network, he rose to the top of the NFLatino list, too. Imagine when, not if, he finally accepts that “Dancing With the Stars” invitation some year.
Cruz was interviewed about his profession, his background and his salsa-dance touchdown celebration for the HBO program that also featured comedian George Lopez, model Christy Turlington, politician Henry Cisneros, news anchor Giselle Fernandez and actor Jon Seda, among others. All heavyweights in their fields.
In a league with a number of Latinos who are important players to their teams, Cruz stands out above them all. He doesn’t play as high-profile a position as fellow New York sportsman Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets, but Cruz looks bound for his first Pro Bowl while Sanchez struggles (not entirely his fault) on the field and in the spotlight.
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo just can’t get over the hump with the Cowboys and America’s team could go in a new direction sooner than later. New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is a promising young player, but an injury has limited him this season.
Tony Gonzalez has been one of the NFL’s premier tight ends, but he’s in the twilight of a long and amazing career. The standard-bearer is Cruz.
He plays a glamorous position. He honors his Latino heritage. He plays in the media capital of the world.
Cruz is electrifying. He had 82 catches and 1, 536 yards with nine touchdowns in his breakout year of 2011. Those numbers are superstar-caliber for any receiver, let alone a young one like Cruz who was never drafted in the NFL.
And then you look at Cruz in 2012. He probably won’t get to the same yardage total, but with Manning throwing to him, he already has those seven TDs among his 50 total catches.
The NFL season hasn’t even reached its official halfway point yet, and here is Cruz, headed toward career highs in catches and touchdowns.
Cruz is a good route-runner who isn’t afraid to go over the middle. He’s a crafty slot receiver with a good mind outside the game, having already written a book. And if he continues this kind of production, he’ll be in line for a major pay raise soon.
One can only wonder how much better Cruz can get. He’s in the prime of his life and career, about to turn 26 next month.
People watch Giants games just to see if Cruz will salsa. He’s worth the ticket price for sure, and he’s representing Latinos very well in a game many of them love.