Posted by Daniel Kahaner on February 20th, 2012
So far, 2011-2012 has been the year of the emerging star in New York City both on the gridiron and the hardwood.
Victor Cruz, a Paterson, NJ native and undrafted free agent wide receiver from the University of Massachusetts, put himself on the map in the 2010 pre-season during a game against the New York Jets, when he dazzled the crowd for nearly 200 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. An injury landed the young receiver on IR for the remainder of the season, and he came into camp in 2011 as the fifth receiver behind Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, and Domenik Hixon.
Steve Smith departed for the Philadelphia Eagles before the start of spring training after an ugly contract battle with New York, leaving a gaping hole in the Giants receiving core. Hixon began the season promisingly, but suffered a season ending injury in Week 2 against the Rams after making a spectacular one handed touchdown catch. These injuries paved the way for Cruz, who certainly made the most of his opportunity.
In Week 3 against the Eagles, Cruz absolutely torched the Eagles’ prize free agent acquisition, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, for two touchdowns, and even wrestled one of them right out of the perennial pro-bowlers hands. Cruz became an instant sensation in New York for helping the Giants defeat one of their most bitter rivals, who had given them a lot of trouble in recent matchups. Cruz would go on to rack up over 1,500 yards, a single season record for any Giants receiver, while continuing to drop jaws at Metlife Stadium with unbelievable catches of 99 and 74 yards against the Jets and Cowboys respectively, helping the Giants find a way into the playoffs, and ultimately to their fourth Super Bowl championship.
Jeremy Lin, an undrafted free agent point guard from Harvard University must have seen Cruz play and said, “Hey, if he can do it so can I!” Lin bounced around from team to team last season and the beginning of this one, landing with the Knicks after rookie Iman Shumpert went down with an injury. Being an undrafted free agent, it was obvious that Lin would have to ride the pine unless a dire situation presented itself. It did. And since, the Knicks have lost only one game.
Jeremy Lin entered a must win game against the Nets with the Knicks struggling to move the ball, he finished with 25 points and 7 assists, leading the Knicks to a much needed victory and saving coach Mike D’Antoni’s job. That win made the Knicks 9-15, and they haven’t looked back. With only one bad loss to the lowly Hornets, the Knicks are 8-1 in their last 9 games with Lin getting a healthy number of minutes, and they have done so all without star forward Carmelo Anthony. After defeating the defending champion Dallas Mavericks on Sunday in impressive fashion, it appears as though the Knicks are on the rise, and it is all thanks to Jeremy Lin.
So how did these two former no name athletes make it so big in the largest sports market in the country? The answer is unclear, but both Cruz and Lin have not only silenced critics, but have almost single handedly revolutionized the way teams will scout players moving forward. In other words, teams might look beyond Mel Kiper and Todd McShay’s big board to find talent. More importantly, though, they have helped their teams win, and New York that is all that matters.
There is nothing better than an underdog story, and the city of New York is lucky enough to have been a part of two sensational stories within one year’s time. And the best is yet to come.