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Former NY Giant Victor Cruz looks to score with restaurant venture

·4 min read

Victor Cruz made his mark in the NFL as a former star wide receiver for the New York Giants who helped lead the team to victory in Super Bowl XLVI. It’s been 10 years since Cruz caught four balls for 25 yards and a touchdown in the Giants' 21-17 win over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

The 2016 season was Cruz's last year in the NFL. Now, the 35-year-old Pro Bowler and New Jersey native is making some strategic plays off the field.

Cruz is partnering with the fast-food burger chain Krystal to bring the brand out of the Southeast for the first time in its 90-year history. The agreement includes plans to build up to five restaurants branded as Victor Cruz’s Krystal in the New Jersey area by the end of 2023, including in his hometown of Paterson, N.J.

In an exclusive interview, Cruz told Yahoo Finance that partnering with the Atlanta-based chain – famous for its burgers on a square bun – was a “no-brainer.”

“I’d always been wanting to do some sort of legacy project for my hometown and provide some sort of energy and spark and provide jobs for people,” Cruz said. “For [Krystal] to trust me with the mantle, so to speak, in my area, Northern New Jersey, starting with Paterson… it was a dream come true.”

Former NY Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz has agreed to open co-branded Krystal restaurants in his native New Jersey.
Former NY Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz has agreed to open co-branded Krystal restaurants in his native New Jersey.

In addition to co-branding with Krystal, Cruz will outfit the restaurants with memorabilia from his football career and create a line of Cruz-inspired merchandise that will be available for sale online and in the restaurants.

Cruz said he looks forward to being “hands-on” when Krystal breaks ground on the restaurants next year.

“I know it's a process, but I'm excited to give back to my community. You'll see the memorabilia everywhere, jerseys, helmets, cleats. We're still narrowing that stuff down, but we're very excited for people to walk in and say, ‘Victor Cruz had his personal touch in here.’”

Cruz said he gets approached to partner with a number of different brands, but only says yes to opportunities that align with his personal goals.

One of those opportunities is becoming the strategic partner and advisor to the soon-to-be-launched peer-to-peer sports betting exchange Prophet Exchange. Once again, Cruz is keeping it close to home with the Hoboken, N.J.-based company that lets customers set prices for other users to bet on, or place bets on the prices already available.

Jake Benzaquen (Prophet Exchange COO and Co-Founder), Victor Cruz (Prophet Exchange Strategic Partner & Advisor) and Dean Sisun (Prophet Exchange CEO and Co-Founder) (Photo: Business Wire)
Jake Benzaquen (Prophet Exchange COO and Co-Founder), Victor Cruz (Prophet Exchange Strategic Partner & Advisor) and Dean Sisun (Prophet Exchange CEO and Co-Founder) (Photo: Business Wire)

“Sports betting can be a little difficult sometimes, spreads and things like that, so [Prophet Exchange] makes it a little bit more streamlined for people to learn how to bet,” he said. “A bunch of younger gentlemen run the business and they want to do cool, innovative things and I wanted to be on the ground floor of that.”

He also believes fantasy sports is helping to build the brand of individual athletes – a business model he says is “here to stay.”

“A running back for the Los Angeles Rams may not have been the most highly sought after guy or talked about guy in your peer groups, but if he's on your fantasy team, you're talking about this guy every day because he's probably either gaining you points or not gaining you points. So from a player perspective, you're getting the notoriety of more fans getting to know you in a different way," Cruz said.

A Cinderella story

Perhaps no one personifies the football Cinderella story more than Victor Cruz. Growing up with a single mother, he played college football at UMass, and signed with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2010.

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 08:  Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants does his touchdown dance against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 8, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  The Cowboys defeated the Giants 36-31.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Victor Cruz of the New York Giants does his famous "salsa touchdown dance" against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 8, 2013 in Arlington, Texas. The Cowboys defeated the Giants 36-31. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

That year he signed a three-year $1.2 million contract with the Giants and then a five-year $43 million contract in 2013. His unique journey to the top of the sport is an experience that informs how Cruz conducts himself both on and off the gridiron.

"I treat everything I do now off the field with the same intensity, the same diligence and the same preparation that I did playing football. I think that helps me a ton going into these business meetings," he said.

“That mindset of being an undrafted free agent is — it's definitely different because... you don't know when you're going to get cut, so to speak, so you just want to go in every day and take advantage of the opportunity and really stay focused and lock in on what you do."

Alexis Christoforous is an anchor and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AlexisTVNews.

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