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Giants' Victor Cruz Inspires Teachers, Students At Former Paterson School

PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) - Giants WR Victor Cruz's magical season now moves on to Indianapolis, but long before the wideout's stardom, he was a hometown hero in Paterson, New Jersey.

Cruz's teachers from the elementary school he attended are beaming with pride.  Banners and Giants memorabilia can be seen all over P.S. 21. Cruz's teachers say he was driven, tenacious and an excellent student.

"His smile just lit up the whole building. Victor was always a happy-go-lucky kid," teacher Rhonda Tombiling-Bowden told CBS 2's Christine Sloan.

To appreciate Cruz's remarkable success, one must understand where he came from. He grew up on a street and in a city plagued by crime.

Cruz has also become an inspiration to all of the students who struggled to beat the odds in Paterson.  Chris Diaz is an 8th grader at P.S. 21, where Cruz was a student for three years. Watching the Giants' star makes him feel he's got a chance.

"I really look up to Victor Cruz,"  Diaz said. "We have a lot of things common and like he grew up just like me in Paterson."

Teachers at his old school attribute Cruz's success to his parents, who they say inspired him to be the best.

"It brings tears to my eyes to see him on TV and see the great success that he has had," Janet Ludwig, Cruz' 6th grade teacher, said.

Meanwhile, Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, who at the airport waiting to come from San Francisco on Monday, was still on cloud nine over the Giants win.

WCBS 880's Sean Adams On The Story


Wimberly coached wide receiver Cruz at Paterson Catholic and says the meteoric rise of the undrafted free agent is a lesson in dedication and perseverance.

"He's definitely humble. I mean, his mom has done an unbelievable job of raising him and being very humble... maintaining his faith base... and staying mentally strong. I mean, he's definitely really something that I'm just proud to see how he's handled himself," Wimberly told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams on Monday.

He says Cruz is very focused.

"He just has a contagious personality, I think. I think he's the kind of person, when he walks in a room, he lights the room, doesn't have to say much. Type of person that has that East Coast swagger to him that kind of makes everybody else around him confident also. Because he is unbelievably confident," said Wimberly.

Regarding the fancy footwork in the end zone, Wimberly says Cruz's Silk City salsa moves come from his grandma.

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