Victor Cruz makes plays for President Obama, too

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Victor Cruz celebrates a touchdown during a game

Victor Cruz celebrates a touchdown during a game against the Cleveland Browns at MetLife Stadium. (Oct. 10, 2012) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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Bob Glauber Newsday columnist Bob Glauber

Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets and

Victor Cruz thought it might have been a joke when someone told him in the Giants' locker room one day last May that President Barack Obama was calling to speak with the third-year receiver.

No joke. It really was the president.

So Cruz hurried to the lobby of the team's training facility to take the call from the most powerful man on the planet.

"When you get a phone call from the president, you don't tell him you'll call back," Cruz said Wednesday, just hours after Obama had delivered his victory speech upon his re-election.

The conversation lasted about five minutes, and Cruz, who was so stunned that he was talking to Obama that he felt himself blushing through much of the call, said he would honor the president's request to assist in his re-election campaign.

"He told me how much of a fan he was of me," Cruz said, "and if I wanted to help out if I wanted to be a voice for the young people, and help him out in any way possible. I told him, 'Of course.' "

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Cruz previously met Obama at a fundraiser in Manhattan in February, not long after the Giants' Super Bowl championship run had ended. "It was one of the coolest things I've ever done to meet him," Cruz said. They shook hands, and Obama started to do the salsa, the touchdown celebratory dance Cruz has used since last season.

Cruz hadn't really been involved with politics before, but once he got the call from Obama he quickly immersed himself in the issues and appeared at rallies. He also participated in interviews in the days and weeks leading up to Tuesday's vote. There was even an Election Day interview, one of a series he conducted for media outlets in states ranging from Florida, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and Colorado.

" sent me some information, emails with a list of different things, different policies, just keys and notes that they wanted to get translated through the interviews," Cruz said. "I looked at all that stuff and memorized as much as I can for the interviews."

Many of the interviews were conducted in Spanish.

"A lot of stuff was geared toward the Latin community," said Cruz, who grew up in Paterson, N.J., and spoke Spanish and English at home. "I did a lot of the interviews in Spanish and a lot of the stuff was geared toward the Latin community as well as anybody who ever came out to support got the word."

Cruz was heartened by the outcome of Tuesday's election, as Obama defeated Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

"I was very excited," he said. "It's big for our community, it's big for minorites, it's big for the Latin community, it's big for all of us. Let's hope he continues to do positive things for us. I'm excited to have him back for another term."

Cruz is one of many sports figures who has become active in politics, but he took somewhat of a low profile during the election. In fact, the focus was almost always on football; Cruz would talk politics only when he was requested for an interview, mostly from media outlets in different states.

But now for a little payback from the president?

"Unfortunately, he's still a Bears fan, which he's pretty happy about," Cruz said, referring to Chicago's 7-1 record. "He's happy about that, although he hasn't thrown it in my face yet. I'm going to send him a couple [of Giants] shirts. We'll see what we can do. Put his face on one or something."

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Perhaps a return visit to the White House will help change Obama's mind. Cruz wouldn't mind going back after another Giants' Super Bowl victory.

"We have some time," Cruz said. "We definitely want to get back there."

So does the Giants' coach, who took a decidedly low profile. Reminded yesterday that Coughlin had told Obama during a White House visit last June that both were looking to get back there this year, and that the president had done his part, the coach replied, "Yeah, he's there. We need to get there."

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