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Coughlin proud Victor Cruz visited Jack Pinto's family

New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz reacts

New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz reacts after making a reception during the first the first half on Jan. 15, 2012. Credit: AP

Victor Cruz wasn't sure what to expect when he made the trip to Newtown, Conn., on Tuesday to meet with the grieving Pinto family.

Cruz spent his off day visiting with the family of Jack Pinto, a 6-year-old victim of last week's school shooting, after contacting them over the weekend and dedicating Sunday's game to a boy who was such a big fan that he was buried in Cruz's No. 80 Giants jersey.

"I was a little nervous," Cruz said about the emotional visit. "I just didn't know how I was going to be received. You never know, when they're going through something like that, you just never know how it's going to go down."

When he arrived, though, he saw a group of kids wearing his jersey and the family waiting outside the house for his arrival.

"They were still pretty emotional, crying and stuff like that, and I saw how affected they were by just my presence alone," Cruz said of the Pinto family. He said Jack's older brother, Ben, was particularly upset.

Cruz, who made the trip with his 11-month-old daughter, Kennedy, and her mother, Elaina Watley, went inside and spoke with the family for over an hour.

"There were instances where we would take some time and talk football, or talk just life in general, where you would just talk about normal things back and forth," Cruz said. "But those instances lasted about a couple seconds before you could revert back to saying something about Jack or something about the family or something about the nearby family that also suffered a loss and things like that. It was tough."

Cruz presented the cleats and gloves he wore in Sunday's game -- inscribed with Jack's name -- to Ben. He also played video games with some of the kids who were there. Madden, of course.

"We got to smile a little bit, which was good for them," Cruz said. "It was a time where I just wanted to be a positive voice, a positive light in the time where it can be really negative. So it was a good time. They're a great family and they're really united right now at this time, and it was good to see."

When Cruz walked into the Giants' facility Wednesday morning, Tom Coughlin was waiting for him. Coughlin had something that he wanted to tell Cruz and it couldn't wait.

"He just bee-lined over to me and said he was proud of me and that was a great thing that I did [Tuesday]," Cruz said. "I told him it was only right. I felt like, in that moment, when you hear a kid that is such a big fan of you and such a big fan of the Giants and the team, and I was his favorite player, I felt like it was only right that I pay my respects to him and be as comforting to that family as much as I can."

Coughlin told reporters that he was "incredibly proud" of Cruz's visit.

"That family will remember that all their days and somehow, hopefully, some of their grief might at least temporarily be spent in being able to embrace Victor Cruz," Coughlin said. "The fact that he went and did that speaks volumes about what he has inside."

If anyone knows about forging a bond with a family grieving over the loss of a child, it would be Coughlin. He maintains a relationship with the parents of a former player at Boston College, Jay McGillis, calling them several times a year. He also founded The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund to help parents of children suffering from cancer. McGillis died of leukemia in 1993.

Cruz and Coughlin have not spoken about that yet, but Cruz said he is aware of Coughlin's ties to the McGillis family. He would like to have a similar relationship with the Pintos, he said.

"We reached out to them and we exchanged information, so we're going to try as much as we can to keep in contact," Cruz said. "Just little things, just to say hello a couple months from now, years, and just say 'How you doing?' and stuff like that, just to see how they're doing from time to time."

He may even visit again. It's only a short drive from his home in New Jersey to Newtown, after all. About 90 minutes. When Cruz made that trip on Tuesday, he had time to reflect on a lot of things.

"Just how short life can be, how much you have to cherish every moment, how much you have to cherish every opportunity, every chance you get with your family," Cruz said of his thoughts on the way up. "Never take anything for granted because just a day at school can change all that."

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