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Cruz Recounts Meeting With Jack Pinto’s Family

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Victor Cruz (credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Victor Cruz (credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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By TOM CANAVAN, AP Sports Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ For much of his hour-long 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.

Tears were shed. Feelings were shared. Cleats and gloves worn by
Cruz to honor Jack Pinto at Sunday’s game against Atlanta were
given to his family.

The New York Giants wide receiver somberly recounted Wednesday
his meeting with Pinto’s parents and brother in Newtown, Conn.

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.”

Jack Pinto was buried on Monday and Cruz telephoned the family
to ask whether he could visit them Tuesday.

The family disclosed after Friday’s massacre that Cruz was
Jack’s favorite player. The boy was one of 20 first-graders and six
adults killed in the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

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.”

Cruz had written “Jack Pinto, My Hero” and “R.I.P. Jack
Pinto” on his cleats before the Giants’ loss to the Falcons Sunday
in Atlanta.

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 a fans they are of the team, or different times they
watched the Super Bowl.”

Cruz spent that part of the visit sitting in the chair where
Jack’s father, Dean, sat when he watched the Giants’ Super Bowl win
over the New England Patriots in February.

It was a day Jack got to see his favorite team win a
championship.

“It was just an emotional time,” Cruz said. “I spent a little
bit of time with them. 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 the tunnel where it can really be negative, so
it was a good time. They are a great family and they’re really
united at this time and it was good to see.”

Cruz said it was strange thinking about a child being buried in
his jersey. He did not know how to react. Should he thank the
family?

“It leaves you kind of blank,” Cruz said. “I am definitely
honored by it. I am definitely humbled by it, and it’s definitely
an unfortunate but humbling experience for me.”

The visit also gave Cruz time to reflect, especially looking at
his daughter.

“Ever since it happened I’ve kind of been spending more time
with her, just cherishing the little moments, the little time you
get with her because you never know when that can be taken from
you,” he said.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he was incredibly proud of Cruz
for visiting with the Pinto family.

“Hopefully some of their grief might at least temporarily be
suspended in being able to embrace Victor Cruz,” Coughlin said,
adding what he did speaking volumes of what he has inside.

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice said what Cruz did took
heart.

“You’ve got to be able to put yourself in that family’s
situation to understand at least what they’re going through,” Rice
said in a conference call with the New York media about Sunday’s
game against the Giants. “That’s what it’s about. That’s something
that you don’t just say, `I’m going to do it.’ You do it from the
heart, from within and what he did was amazing.”
___
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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