Several Giants were chatting a few days ago when the subject of their ages came up. They went around the group sharing and when it came to Victor Cruz he told everyone he was 29 years old. Just like that. Twenty-nine.
Running back Rashad Jennings recalled that conversation with a smile when he learned that Cruz has a birthday on Friday. Not just any birthday, either. Eight-oh is turning the big three-oh.
“Thirty! Old man!” Jennings howled. “He didn’t say: ‘I’m about to turn 30.’ He said: ‘I’m 29.’ People don’t like being old.”
Especially not football players, since so few of them make it there. The Giants roster, now that Cruz is part of the club, features just nine of them and three of that group are a pair of quarterbacks (Eli Manning and Josh Johnson) and the kicker (Robbie Gould).
Often turning 30 is the beginning of the end.
Cruz, for his part, did not feel that way. At least not physically. His body has been through a lot, especially in his late 20s, but he said he has not lost a step.
“I still feel great,” he said on the eve of his birthday. “I still can run with the best of them and run these routes and do what I need to do to make plays. Thirty, at least psychologically, makes me feel a little bit different.”
So what does it take to play in the NFL as a 30-something?
“A lot of hard work,” said Jennings, 31. “It don’t just come easy. It’s a lot of effort.”
Manning, 35, is the oldest Giant on the roster.
“Yeah, hits take longer to get over,” Manning said of his longtime teammate joining him on the other side of his 20s.
Manning said turning 30 didn’t mean much to him as an athlete, but quarterbacks are certainly different. Jennings said he still feels fresh and is proud that he’ll turn 32 this offseason.
“The game’s still the game,” Jennings said. “My body feels good. The production ain’t what I want it to be, but the body feels good. Offseason training. That’s what it’s all about. No doubt.”
Cruz certainly made a lot of great memories in his 20s with the Giants, climbing from obscurity as an undrafted free agent to being a Super Bowl champion and one of the most popular players in franchise history. How long will that continue?
“He knows what he’s doing,” Manning said. “I think he’ll continue to work extremely hard and take care of his body. He’ll have, I think, many more years of success.”
Besides, Cruz was quick to point out that being 30 these days isn’t the professional old age it once was.
“Thirty is the new 20,” he said. “I’m just excited for another chapter of my life.”