Photo: Hugo Boss
Living with three Giants fans, there was a lot of excitement in my house when I had the opportunity to interview Victor Cruz. Not only is he one of the leaders of the New Jersey-based football team (with a Superbowl victory under his belt), Cruz also has a really compelling and inspiring story. He grew up in a tough part of Paterson, New Jersey and his family encouraged him to play sports to keep him out of trouble. Cruz was accepted to UMass to play on their team but was red-shirted the first season, then kicked out for poor grades—twice. During that time Cruz lost his father, whom he credits with teaching him what it means to be a man and to love the game. After a stint in community college, UMass offered him another chance, and he became a standout member of the football team. He didn’t initially make the draft, but he did manage to get a late tryout, and later a spot on the team he dreamed of playing on his entire life.
Cruz is not only a great talent, he is also a sweet multi-dimensional guy who is as passionate about fashion as he is about football. He was happy to talk about the importance of facials, his power foods, and why he wants to be a role model.
BB: We’re neighbors! I hear you live a couple of towns over from me in New Jersey.
VC: I’m New Jersey born and raised. I am biased, but I couldn’t live anywhere else. I love everything about New Jersey—the restaurants, the people—it’s a great state.
BB: When I heard I was interviewing you, I called our mutual friend Michael Strahan and asked him what I needed to know. He said that you are one great guy, and that what he loves most is that you don’t get into the hype about being a celebrity. That just made me want to meet you more.
VC: Michael is one of my closest friends. He mentors me every time I talk to him. He’s got some great nuggets to go along with life and I cherish him for that.
BB: Your book Out Of The Blue told such an inspirational story. You ended up on your dream team, but you weren’t drafted initially. How did you handle that?
VC: It was tough. I was a realist. I knew I wasn’t 6’5” or 220 pounds, which is your prototypical wide receiver in the NFL. So I knew I had to work extra hard to hopefully get a tryout. I got that opportunity with The Giants and I made the best of it. I went out and did the best I could—and I came through.
BB: I love how you do the salsa when you score a touchdown. How did that start?
VC: My grandmother was an avid dancer. Whether it was Monday afternoon or Christmas Eve, she was always dancing and she taught me the steps. When I started playing with The Giants, Mike Sullivan, the quarterback coach at the time, encouraged me to make the salsa my touchdown dance. After that it became my signature move. My grandmother loved every second of it, so now I do it in honor of her.
BB: Is it true you turned down Dancing With the Stars?
I thought it was a little premature in my career to do it. I wanted to focus on football and focus on my craft more before I started to do things outside the stadium.
BB: What are your grooming rituals? I know our friend Michael Strahan likes them all—even pedicures.
VC: I’m in the same boat. I’m the guy that doesn’t turn down a good pedicure!With football, my skin gets very oily underneath my helmet, so I get facials to manage my skin. I work with Mamie McDonald and she tailors the treatment to the current state of my skin. She does pure oxygen treatments, diamond dust microdermabrasion treatments, light therapy, and peels. She introduced me to Luzern products too.
BB: So how do you fuel up for a game, what are your power foods?
VC: Before my games I usually have egg whites, avocado, French toast, a fruit plate and wheat bread. Post game is always with my family, so pasta and chicken and all that good stuff.
BB: What do you do to stay in shape in the off-season?
VC: I focus on strength, conditioning, and speed training four days a week with my trainer Sean Donnelan.
BB: Talk to me about your love of fashion, when did that start?
VC: I have always been into fashion. As a young child, my mom didn’t always have the means to get everything. She did well for me though, and always made sure I looked good and was properly put together when I had to go out and about.
BB: You just became the face of the Hugo Man fragrance by Hugo Boss, what has that been like for you?
VC: For me to represent their brand, which is so prestigious, was an extreme honor and very humbling for me. The campaign is called Success Beyond The Game, which shows that not only do we have success on the field, but off the field as well.
BB: So many kids look up to football players, who were your role models when you were a kid?
VC: My dad taught me everything I know about football; he introduced me to the game and taught me how to be a man, to be accountable for everything that I do. My high school football coach just fine-tuned everything that my dad instilled—how to be a professional and really carry myself in the right way on and off the field.
BB: That’s so important— I think more and more people in your position should focus on how they are off the field.
VC: Being a role model is something that kind of comes with the territory when you are a sports figure. Kids really want to be like you and emulate what you do. It’s a lot to live up to, so you have to understand that you have to put positive things out in the universe.
BB: What advice would you have for young kids who want to be the next Victor Cruz?
VC: Whenever you want to do something, make sure you are at the top of your class. You always want to be the best that you can be at whatever you do. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t do something, or you are too small, or too big, or you aren’t fast enough. I definitely used to get that growing up. I had to overcome a lot of obstacles. Continue to keep your head on straight and you’ll be fine.