No matter where he goes or what he accomplishes in his life, Victor Cruz always will have the game.
"It's never going to escape me. Every year we play them, preseason or regular season," Cruz said of his breakout three-touchdown performance in the 2010 preseason game against the Jets. "There is always a spot there for me of memories and the game I had against them my rookie season, and that never goes away. That never goes away."
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It has become as much a part of Jets folklore as Giants'. The unknown kid, undrafted from UMass, scored three times in the second half and burst on to the national scene. It even wound up being a part of the Jets' appearance on "Hard Knocks," with the Jets unsure which position Cruz played and Rex Ryan talking him up to Tom Coughlin at midfield after the game.
Cruz may have topped that pre-salsa preseason performance in 2011 when he caught a 99-yard touchdown pass against the Jets on Christmas Eve to help the Giants win their most recent regular-season meeting with their MetLife roommates.
That play was a turning point for both franchises. The Jets lost their next game at Miami, ending their playoff hopes, and the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl. But the Giants and Jets meet during the regular season only once every four seasons. They clash during preseason every year, which is why Cruz's original memories flood back more often.
"That feeling is always there and I'm sure the Jets' organization knows it's there," Cruz said.
He'll get the chance Friday in the Giants' fourth of five preseason games. This time he's not looking for his career to explode; it's his team's offense that he'd like to see erupt.
After stumbling through three games -- Cruz does not have an official reception, although he did catch a 50-yarder Saturday that he fumbled before the play was negated by a penalty -- the Giants have as much to prove in this game as any undrafted rookie ever could.
"I think every game as of this point is a showcase for us," Cruz said. "We have to give a better showing here than we did in the early part of this [last game] . . . There is definitely a sense of urgency for us to get better."
And who better for Cruz to do it against than the Jets?
"It's going to be nostalgic, but that is all in the past," he said of his 2010 showing. "We definitely want to keep moving forward and going in the right direction. But it is always a fun memory for myself."