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UMass great Victor Cruz salsas into football sunset

Former star receiver retires to work for ESPN as analyst

NFL: New York Giants at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Salsa, no more.

UMass alum and former Super Bowl champion Victor Cruz retired Tuesday, simultaneously announcing the kickoff to his career as a football analyst for ESPN.

Side note: Over/under on salsa dances ESPN forces Cruz into performing on set in the first week: 20.

Cruz was a popular player both in the NFL and on campus at McGuirk Stadium. Fair to say his limited sample size impacted his draft status, as he went undrafted before signing with the New York Giants in 2010.

A Pro Bowl and multiple 1,000-yard receiving seasons later, his football career is solidified as a memorable one.

Ranking Cruz in the pantheon of all-time Minutemen greats is tricky. Cruz was kicked out of school twice for academic reasons, and caught his first pass as a junior, leaving his window for production limited. In two seasons, however, Cruz made 1st team All-Colonial Athletic Association honors and put up tremendous numbers (131 catches, 1,958 yards, 11 touchdowns) in a short time span.

Judging him purely as an NFL player from UMass, Cruz would have to be second all-time to tight end Milt Moran, who was a two-time Pro Bowler for the Cleveland Browns, spanning 1966-1975. Former running back Marcel Shipp and quarterback Greg Landry are in the discussion, but Cruz’s production in the big show dwarfs theirs, especially considering his duration.

As for his career at UMass, it’s hard to put him on the unofficial Mount Rushmore of Minutemen. He is up against Morin, who was also an accomplished college player and 2010 College Football Hall of Fame inductee.

In fact, he probably just barely slides into the “Teddy Roosevelt” spot on the Mount Rushmore of UMass All-Time Receivers. Cruz could complement current Tennessee Titan Tajae Sharpe, who holds pretty much all career and season receiving records at UMass, that Morin guy once again, and Adrian Zullo, who holds the school record for touchdown receptions and is second all-time in receptions and receiving yards.

Regardless, Victor Cruz excelled at every level of football. And carrying the UMass football banner as a pro helped put the program in the spotlight with every slant pattern to the end zone.

His impact came as a sort of Example A for the type of talent that can flourish in Amherst. The timing of his meteoric rise through the NFL with the move UMass made in April 2011 to go for the FBS level align perfectly.

To be clear, I am not saying Victor Cruz is the reason they are playing at the highest level of college football. But name recognition goes a long way to giving a team the confidence to make a big move.

And Victor has big moves.