Cruz, 31, made his announcement in a video via Uninterrupted.
“As I officially close one chapter of my life and begin another, I could not be more thrilled to join another championship team at ESPN,” Cruz said in a statement. “I’m excited to get started and share my insight and analysis with the viewers and fans of the NFL.”
The Paterson, N.J. native signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2010 out of the University of Massachusetts. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Cruz made an immediate impact in his first preseason game with six receptions for 145 yards and three touchdowns. Unfortunately, he was limited to three games in his rookie season because of injury.
He returned with a vengeance in his second season, leading the Giants in receptions (82), receiving yards (1,536), and touchdowns (9). Cruz was named Second Team All-Pro and the Giants defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
It was 3rd-and-10 from the Giants 1. It first looked like it was going to be a short pass from Eli Manning. Cruz turned into it something special. He stopped on a dime, making the reception and juking Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie on the zero at the Giants’ 10. He then turned on the speed. Before you knew it, Cruz was gone.
He blew past safety Eric Smith down the right sideline for a 99-yard touchdown. After scoring, Cruz did his signature salsa dance in the end zone and the MetLife Stadium crowd went bananas. He became only the 13th player in NFL history with a 99-yard touchdown reception.
Cruz continued to represent in the postseason. He had 10 receptions for 142 yards in the NFC Championship Game victory over the San Francisco 49ers. He followed that up with the Giants’ only receiving touchdown in the Super Bowl. The following season, Cruz caught 86 passes for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns in his only Pro Bowl campaign.
Injuries plagued Cruz throughout his career. He signed a five-year, $43 million extension in 2013 but was limited to 14 games and fell short of his third consecutive 1000-yard season by two yards. In a 2014 Week 6 game against the Philadelphia Eagles, he tore his patellar tendon and missed the rest of the season. He also missed the entire 2015 season with a calf injury suffered in the preseason.
Cruz returned in 2016 but showed little of the form that made him an All-Pro. He recorded 39 receptions for 586 yards and a touchdown. The Giants didn’t feel that his production justified his contract and released him in the offseason. Cruz then signed with the Chicago Bears but was released by the team in the preseason and didn’t play in 2017.
Cruz played in 38 games for the Giants. He ranks 11th in franchise history with 303 receptions, 10th in receiving yards with 4,424, and 17th in receiving touchdowns with 25.
Manning was asked Tuesday if one play from Cruz stood out for him and he talked about the 99-yard touchdown.
“Obviously, the Jets game 2011, second to the last game of the season,” Manning said. “A 99-yarder on a little option route. Catch in 10 yards and make the corner miss, and then outrun the safeties for a huge play at the time—leading to us making the playoffs in the first place Obviously, the touchdown in the Super Bowl over the middle. There’s too many, a lot to choose from, a bunch of huge plays.”
Cruz will make his ESPN debut Wednesday.
– Curtis Rawls is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage and covers the NFL, the New York Giants, and the NBA. Please like and follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Twitter. Curtis can be followed on Twitter @CuRawls203.