Most fans know the story of the road to fame for Victor Cruz; going from an undrafted free agent signing out of the University of Massachusetts to breakout star with the New York Giants to Super Bowl Champion and now; a superstar NFL wide receiver with a multi-million dollar contract; a story that had made him such a likeable player over the last three years.
Cruz's story gives a lot of undrafted free agents everywhere hope of following his pattern in the NFL; something Cruz's current teammate and rookie cornerback Charles James is looking to accomplish by becoming another undrafted free agent who makes the team and has a tremendous impact on the defense.
Cruz recalls a day in practice where James noticed an old "UFA, Undrafted No. 3" t-shirt that he wore under his pads; something Cruz used as motivation while trying to make the team as a rookie in 2010 and likely would have if not for a season-ending hamstring injury. James saw the shirt and requested one from Cruz because he wanted to use the shirt as his motivation in 2013. Cruz told Art Stapleton of the Bergen Record about how impressed he's been with James all summer long and sees a lot of him in the rookie.
"That shirt is a throwback to when I was in that position, with my old number and everything," Cruz said. "He’s one of the guys that has showed up and flashed since he got here. He’s very talented. He definitely has some skill that everyone sees, and when he’s covering me, I see it. He reads my body language and things like that, and he has proven so far he is a good player. Not only do we see that as teammates, but I think the coaches have seen it, and they like him, too. He’s the real deal, so he wears it well."
James wore the shirt when he addressed the media this week at practice and even posted it to his Instagram account; showing the fans that he is really proud of the shirt and extremely determined to make the team. James is competing against Trumaine McBride for one of the final cornerback positions on the defense, but given that second year defensive back Jayron Hosley is currently on the sidelines with a sprained ankle and won't play against the New England Patriots, it further enhances James' chances of making the team, especially since he can return punts.
"I’m still a long shot at this thing," James told The Record on Monday. "You just take it for what it is. At the end of the day, if they make the call, it’s something you can’t control. I don’t see this as pressure. Whatever happens, it happens – I don’t consider that pressure — there’s a sense of urgency because you really want to get it done. The plays that come my way, I’m gonna make ’em count and do my best to help this team out in any way I can. Hopefully I’m here to stay."
After Thursday night's game against the Patriots, the team must make the final roster cuts before Saturday's 6 p.m. deadline and get the roster down from the current 75 to the final 53 players for the regular season. If James were to be cut and not picked up by another team, he could always be signed to the practice squad. For the time being though, James is zeroed in on making one of the 53 roster spots and not being signed to the Giants practice squad. How he performs against the Patriots could determine his roster fate.
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