By Christine Valdez
Web Production Assistant
The Meadowlands and MetLife Stadium might not be far from Hasbrouck Heights, but the Hasbrouck Heights Raiders and Lightweights got a small taste of football from the Meadowlands.
What appeared to be a normal day of practice Tuesday night turned into one giant surprise for the Raiders and Lightweights as they received a visit from New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz. Cruz paid the kids a visit as they prepared for the second round of the Meadowlands Football League playoffs. Both teams practice on a field right off Route 17.
Raiders Head Coach Joe Fadden said that the kids were taken by surprise with Cruz’s visit, as they were just ending practice.
“It was wonderful,” said Fadden. “It was just a surprise to see him show up out of the blue.”
During the visit, Cruz mentioned that he always passes by the field and notices the football practices. Members of both the youth and junior teams were in astonishment and Fadden said that he was stunned to see the Giants wide receiver on the field with the kids.“They couldn’t believe it,” said Fadden. “He’s Victor Cruz, he’s recognizable.”
For Assistant Coach Tim McGuire, to see the all the emotion from the kids with Cruz’s visit was priceless.
“The look on the kids’ faces were just priceless,” said McGuire.
As both teams prepared for the next round in the tournament, Cruz offered some words of encouragement, a pep talk on giving their best on the field and working as teammates.By the end of the night, Cruz became a member of the team, leading the teams in their chant, a privilege that goes to the player who has the best practice, according to McGuire. Along with the team chant to close out practice and a pep talk, Cruz also did his known touchdown celebration — the salsa dance — with the kids.
According to Fadden, the young athletes went from stunned to asking Cruz common questions that affect them on the field. As for the close out to practice, Fadden said that it didn’t dawn on him until after the team chant, that he was leading Cruz into the team chant.
“He’s closing practice with the same chant we do every single night,” said Fadden.
Cruz didn’t leave the facility until he took pictures with everyone in attendance.
“He’s just a regular guy,” said McGuire.
The following night, both teams received another Giants player at practice — Center Jim Cordle. Cordle, just like Cruz, interacted with the kids.