Former Pro Bowl wide receiver Victor Cruz speaks to SU students

Super Bowl champion talks about his NFL career and life off the field as part of the “Truth Be Told” series.

As a kid at Patterson Catholic High School, Victor Cruz heard about alum Tim Thomas, a former NBA basketball player who never visited his old community. Cruz knew that he wanted to be the exact opposite.

“I want them to see me and know that I am a role model for children," Cruz said. "I am a role model for anyone that wants to be a professional athlete and activist."

Cruz, an NFL wide receiver and Super Bowl champion, started the Victor Cruz Foundation, which works with the Boys and Girls Club of America in Patterson, New Jersey to teach S.T.E.M. curriculum to kids by building and exploring outside of the classroom.

He discussed his life experiences and how he gives back to his community as part of the “Truth Be Told” series put on by The Delta Zeta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. at the Schine Student Center on the campus of Syracuse University on Monday.

Cruz grew up in Patterson, where he was a star high school wide receiver. One of the first lessons Cruz learned was how important school and education are. After spending a semester at a college preparatory, he went to the University of Massachusetts to play football. During his time there, he was kicked out of school twice for academics reasons. When Cruz realized that college was also about making smart decisions with your newfound independence, he started approaching school with a new seriousness, choosing a major and doing everything he could to make sure he didn’t repeat his mistakes.

“Once I applied myself in school and kind of figured out that was the ticket, that’s when football just became easy, and everything started to flow seamlessly and very easily for me,” Cruz said.

After going undrafted in the 2010 draft, Cruz signed with the New York Giants and rose to become one of the top receivers in the NFL. In 2012, he made the Pro Bowl and won Super Bowl XLVI against the New England Patriots. During his time with the Giants, Cruz became friends with many of his teammates, particularly Odell Beckham Jr. (a constant dancer), and Justin Tuck (a veteran mentor). Cruz also matched up against Patrick Peterson and Darrell Revis, two of the most challenging corners he faced in his NFL career.

One of the most critical lessons he learned during his time in the NFL was how to deal with the financial pressures of NFL life. According to a Sports Illustrated article, 78 percent of players are broke or under financial stress within two years after they end their NFL career. Because of this, Cruz has a strict budget that he follows to ensure that he does not end up financially destitute.

However, even though Cruz saved a lot of his money, setbacks occurred. A financial advisor recommended by an NFL player stole a significant amount of money from Cruz and other players, a cautionary example of how predatory people gain the confidence of players. 

As Cruz continues his NFL career, he hasn’t forgotten the city that made him. While visiting the White House science fair, Cruz met a participant whose baby cousin had died in a car from overheating. In honor of his cousin, the kid created a heat detecting neck pillow that sent phone alerts if the wearer was overheating.

“Once I saw this kid make this with his bare hands, and he had to be no more than 11 years old, I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of,” Cruz said.

Since he established the foundation in 2012, Cruz visits his programs regularly to make sure they are run correctly, and he hopes his work influences others.

“Anybody that wants to give back to their community, I want them to see me as a person that has done that and is doing that,” Cruz said.


Damn I wish I was still a student so I would've been able to see this! Did he salsa dance at all?

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