An Interview with Super Bowl 46 Champion Victor Cruz

Words by: James Wilson
Photography by:Ollie Allison & Harvey Jamison

We’re standing on the driving range at Cabot St Lucia, the turf we’re clipping off flows up the hill in front of us like a tidal wave. I don’t get nervous playing golf these days, but we’ve flown 10 hours to play one of the most spectacular golf courses on the planet. My excitement is teetering on anxiety.

I’m riding with Victor Cruz, New York Giants legend and Super Bowl 46 Champion. My NFL knowledge is about as rusty as my interviewing skills, my anxiety heightens, just a little.

The opening holes at Cabot St Lucia demand mostly silence and open mouths but we exchange a few words. The conversation transcript consists of laughs and scoffs at the video game style views presented at every turn.

2 holes go by, Victor has sussed out my ex-professional golf game. The interview begins, but not the way I’d planned.

‘What was the biggest hurdle for getting to the next level of your golf career?’ Victor asks me. His tone suggests a desire to make a connection, but more importantly, to get an informative answer that he can apply to his game. The professional athlete in him has endured.

“Time” I offer, trying to sound philosophical. “I had this perception that I had to be in a certain place in life by a certain time… maybe if there was an alternate world where I could play forever without the rush, I’d have figured it out. A good bounce here, a great shot there, and you’ve got your break. Were you a child prodigy, or did it come a little later?”

Without hesitation he suggests he was born for it:

I remember the first time playing in Little League. I'm playing lineman, my Dad was one of the coaches and I’ve just got no idea what I’m doing. Soon enough my Dad begs the coach, he's like, “Put him at running back, one time! Give him the ball and let's see what happens!”

The coach put me at running back and I hear the call, “21 dive”, which is me to go. I get the ball and come up the middle. Easy. Suddenly it gets a little congested on me so I’m like well, I'm not going that way. I go around and shake two dudes, hurdle one guy and run 61 yards to the end zone. First time ever touching the ball. I remember being in the end zone, not knowing what to do.

I was kind of like, ok, I think I did good and I turned around and my father was yelling at the head coach. “I told you! I told you!”

You were the best straight out the gate, by the sounds of things. How did things progress from there?

So I played running back the rest of that year, won a championship, went to high school, won a championship in high school, went to college, played in the National Championship twice, lost both times. Went to the NFL, played in the Super Bowl my second year. Like it just kept happening. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I figured I had to just stay the course. You know what I mean?”

I don’t, but I nod my head politely. It sounds like a pretty exciting trajectory. How far did your talent take you, versus your hard work?

The biggest thing for me was just making sure that body wise, I was ready for it. Talent can’t prepare you for the size of the guys at the next level. I had to make sure I was packing on the muscle, making sure I'm getting faster and just preparing myself for whatever the next phase was.

When I graduated college I was so locked in. I was in Bradenton, Florida, just training every single day. They had me on a meal plan. I didn't go out. I went to the training room, back to my hotel, ate, took a nap, got up, workout number two, went back, ate, went to bed, woke up in the morning, worked out, ate.

Sounds intense, but you don’t seem that way now. Your public persona is very relaxed, you brought some personality to the field. I can tell by his smile, he knows what I’m about to ask him. I rip the bandaid: why do they call you The Salsa King?

Well, first of all, I'm half Puerto Rican. I grew up in a very Puerto Rican household, learning all the dances. Salsa, bachata, merengue. My living room was a dance floor. So when I got to the NFL, I decided to do a little something to commemorate my heritage when I got in the end zone, and that was a little salsa dance. Did it one time, and then all of a sudden, I started doing it every time I hit the end zone, I had to keep doing it, right? I was like, OK, this has become a thing. My grandmother was proud, and I kept it going. And then slowly but surely, I garnered the name The Salsa King.

And to go along with your moves on the dancefloor, you also became a bit of a fashion icon. How did that come about?

Well first of all, can you see me in these MANORS threads right now?

I slip him a 100 dollar bill for his co-operation.

I had a love for fashion from a very young age. My father used to teach me all about his fashion, his swagger. He would come through one day in, like, denim shorts, some basketball sneakers, a white tee, and a Yankee hat, and then the next day he'd have linen pants on, a silk shirt with suspenders on, and loafers, and I'm like, how are you able to live in both of these worlds like this? When I was young I didn’t quite understand it but as I got older I got it: that's the swag. That's the character I want to exude when I walk around places. I got into it early on in my career and took advantage of it, travelling to places like Milan and Paris to sit front row at these fashion shows. It's been a beautiful thing.

I have to ask, are there any fits that you regret?

I own all the fits, man. Anything you see me in, I'm walking with personality, I'm making sure I own it, no regrets. I just know you’re going to pull one up. There's going to be some photos of some looks cut in here, but I own them all.

Victor laughs as he starts to recollect some of the outfits that might have us on the fence, even with his convincing pitch. I do my best to bring the conversation back to golf. What are some of the similarities between playing in the NFL and playing golf?

Mindset. You’ve always got to be even-keeled. Things go wrong, things go right. You're going to hit a bad shot, you might drop a pass, you might miss an assignment, let a block go, but it's all about the mentality and keeping level-headed through the ups and downs.

By this point we’ve snaked through the St Lucian clifftops and are heading towards the 15th tee. I’m conscious that I should let Victor enjoy this moment in peace. I’ve seen the images and the flyovers online but as our cart moves down the hill towards the peninsula tee that juts out into the crashing waves, the hole reveals itself. It is without doubt the most ridiculous tee shot I have ever seen. I look to Victor, whose jaw has dropped in cartoon style: it seems he agrees.

Words once again elude me, but as we look along the curving cliff face to the narrow fairway across the water Victor chimes in.

Let’s see if I can stay even-keeled on this one.

He stripes it down the middle.