EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For much of his hour-long visit with the family of a 6-year-old boy killed in the Connecticut school shootings, Victor Cruz talked about football, life and young Jack, the child who idolized him.
Tears were shed. Feelings were shared. Cleats and gloves worn by Cruz to honor Jack Pinto at Sunday’s game against Atlanta were given to his family.
The New York Giants wide receiver somberly recounted Wednesday his meeting with Pinto’s parents and brother in Newtown, Conn.
He struggled in his retelling only when asked about the family’s decision to bury the child in the receiver’s No. 80 Giants jersey. The father of an infant girl, Cruz stopped for a moment, and his eyes became watery.
“You never go through some circumstances like this and circumstances where a kid faces or a family faces something of this magnitude at their school,” Cruz said. “This definitely was the toughest by far.”
Jack Pinto was buried on Monday and Cruz telephoned the family to ask whether he could visit them Tuesday.
The family disclosed after Friday’s massacre that Cruz was Jack’s favorite player. The boy was one of 20 first-graders and six adults killed in the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Cruz drove to Newtown with his girlfriend, Elaina Watley, and their daughter, Kennedy.
“I had no expectations. I was a little nervous,” Cruz said. “I just didn’t know how I was going to be received. You never know when they are going through something like that. You never know how it is going to go down.”
Seeing the family outside the home along with some local children made Cruz feel better.
“They were still pretty emotional, crying and stuff like that,” Cruz said. “I saw how affected they were by just my presence alone. I got out and gave them the cleats and the gloves and they appreciated it. The older brother (Ben) was still emotional, so I gave them to him.”