Victor Cruz makes his living playing an emotional game. Yesterday, he experienced a completely different set of emotions.
On the Giants' day off yesterday, the popular wide receiver drove to Newtown, Conn., where he visited with the family of Jack Pinto, one of the young schoolchildren killed in the horrific shooting last week at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"It was an emotional time," Cruz said today. "I spent a little bit of time with them and we got to smile a little bit, which was good for them. It was a time where I just wanted to be a positive voice, a positive light in a time where it can be very negative. It was a good time. They're a great family and they are really united right now at this time. It was good to see."
Like many others, coach Tom Coughlin lauded Cruz for reaching out to the Pinto family.
"Incredibly proud of what he's done – incredibly," Coughlin said. "That family will remember that all their days. Somehow, hopefully, at least some of their grief may temporarily be spent in being able to embrace Victor Cruz.
"The fact that he went and did that speaks volumes about what he has in him, inside."
Jack Pinto, who was only six years old, was a Giants fan. And his favorite player was Cruz, who has touched fans young and old in the two seasons he has been catching passes for the Giants.
Cruz first heard about Pinto's affection for him via Twitter on Saturday. He spoke with the family that night by phone from his hotel room in Atlanta. The next day, he honored the youngster by writing "Jack Pinto, My Hero," on his left shoe and "R.I.P. Jack Pinto" on his right shoe. He also wrote tributes on his gloves. But he wanted to do more, so yesterday he drove up to Newtown to meet the family.
"I had no expectations," Cruz said. "I was a little nervous. I just didn't know how I was going to be received. You never know when they're going through something like that how it's going to go down. Once I got there and I saw all the kids there with my jersey on, the family…the family was outside and they were still pretty emotional, crying. I saw how affected they were by just my presence alone. I got out and gave them the cleats and gloves and they appreciated it. The older brother, he was still pretty emotional, so I gave the cleats and stuff to him. I proceeded to sign stuff for the kids and go inside and just spend some quality time with them.
"I didn't want to go in there and make a speech or anything. I just wanted to go there and spend some time with them and be someone that they can talk to and be someone that they can vent to, talk about how much of fans they are to the team or different times where they watched the Super Bowl; I was sitting in the seat where the dad watched our Super Bowl last year. It was good."
Jack Pinto was buried Monday wearing a No. 80 Giants jersey.
"That was different," Cruz said. "You don't know whether to say thank you. You don't know whether to say you appreciate it. It leaves you kind of blank, but I'm definitely honored by it. I'm definitely humbled by it and it's definitely unfortunate, but a humbling experience for me."
Cruz said the shooting in Newtown and his interaction with the Pinto family has permanently altered his perspective.
"When you visit a family that's going through so much and facing so much turmoil in their lives; you meet the family, you see people and the things they're going through, it helps you look at life through a different lens," he said. "It really changes your view and the way you used to look at things. It changes your view of it."