From the Conway Daily Sun
By Casey Conley
Jan 20, 2012 6:25 pm
Victor Cruz was one of the biggest surprises of this football season, finishing third overall in receiving yards and helping to lead the New York Giants to their match-up this weekend in the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers.
His rise to the top tier of NFL wide receivers came as a surprise for many fans, coaches and opposing defenses, which he burned for more than 1,500 yards and nine touchdowns.
But it also surprised his former football coach at Bridgton Academy, where Cruz played in 2004 between high school at Paterson Catholic in Paterson, N.J., and college at University of Massachusetts.
“Here’s the thing: I think as a coach you have to have a pretty good eye for talent,” said Rick Marcella, who has coached at Bridgton Academy for the past 26 years. “There was no question that Victor was going to go on and become a pretty good college player.”
“But to say, ‘Oh yeah, I knew he was destined for greatness and would go on to play in the NFL,’ I’d be lying to you,” he added.
Cruz arrived at Bridgton Academy in 2004 as a highly-touted recruit at UMass, which at the time was one of the top programs in Division 1-AA (now known as Football Championship Subdivision, or FCS).
Unlike many other New England prep schools, Bridgton Academy only offers post-graduate programs, which tends to attract athletes looking to mature physically or improve academically before college, Marcella said. In Cruz’s case, the athletics were there, but the coach said he “needed to beef up his academics.”
On the field, Cruz was an obvious standout. With a schedule that includes JV squads from the Ivy League as well as colleges in Division II, Cruz had 47 catches for 883 yards and eight touchdowns during his lone season at Bridgton.
Figures that a NE prep star is a key factor in one of the two championship games. Prediction: Giants face Patriots in a rematch of Super Bowl XLII