EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For much of his hourlong visit with the family of a 6-year-old boy killed in the Connecticut school shootings, Victor Cruz talked about football, life and young Jack, the child who idolized him.
He struggled in his retelling only when asked about the family’s decision to bury the child in the receiver’s No. 80 Giants jersey. The father of an infant girl, Cruz stopped for a moment, and his eyes became watery.
“You never go through some circumstances like this and circumstances where a kid faces or a family faces something of this magnitude at their school,” Cruz said. “This definitely was the toughest by far.”
Cruz drove to Newtown with his girlfriend, Elaina Watley, and their daughter, Kennedy.
“I had no expectations. I was a little nervous,” Cruz said. “I just didn’t know how I was going to be received. You never know when they are going through something like that. You never know how it is going to go down.”
Seeing the family outside the home along with some local children made Cruz feel better.
“They were still pretty emotional, crying and stuff like that,” Cruz said. “I saw how affected they were by just my presence alone. I got out and gave them the cleats and the gloves, and they appreciated it. The older brother [Ben] was still emotional, so I gave them to him.”
The 26-year-old player best known for his salsa dances after touchdowns, signed autographs for the children before heading inside.
“I didn’t want to go in there and make a speech,” Cruz said. “I just wanted to go and spend some time with them and be someone they could talk to, and be someone they can vent to, talk about how much of fans they are of the team, or different times they watched the Super Bowl.”