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Yahoo Finance Presents: Victor Cruz, Former NY Giants Receiver

On this episode of Yahoo Finance Presents, former New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz sat down with Yahoo Finance's Alexis Christoforous to discuss his recent partnership with Krystal restaurants. He also discusses his other business ventures, the recent 10th anniversary of his Super Bowl win, his friendship with Eli Manning, and the current Giants season.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Welcome to "Yahoo Finance Presents," everybody. I'm Alexis Christoforous. Now, you may know Victor Cruz best as the former wide receiver for the New York Giants, who helped lead the team to victory in Super Bowl 46. What you may not know is he's also a pretty savvy businessman.

And he's making some smart moves off the field as well. I'm thrilled to have him here today. Victor, thanks for being here on Yahoo Finance.

VICTOR CRUZ: No problem, Alexis. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Now, look, we are definitely going to talk football a little later on. But first, I want to get to your breaking news here on Yahoo Finance.

You have partnered with the fast food restaurant chain Krystal. You're going to help bring that Southeast burger chain to the Northeast including to your hometown of Patterson, New Jersey. So tell us how that partnership came about and why that brand.

VICTOR CRUZ: Yeah, it kind of came about-- Krystals have reached out to me and-- and you know, expressed their interest and talked to me about kind of the things that they were looking to do-- kind of expanding their brand and expanding the things they wanted to do as a company.

So when they approached me, I was like, this is a no brainer. I'd always been wanting to do some sort of legacy project for my hometown and just provide, you know, some sort of energy and a spark and-- and just had to provide jobs for kids and provide jobs for people.

So I wanted to do that with Krystal. I mean, they haven't come out of the Southeast in-- what-- 90 years or something like that. So for them to, you know, kind of trust me with the mantle-- so to speak-- in my area, right-- in Northern New Jersey starting with Paterson, New Jersey whose obviously very near and dear to my heart.

It was a dream come true. And I just look forward to being hands on, you know, when the-- when we break ground and start putting the memorabilia in these-- in these restaurants and start putting the layouts and people start coming in. I mean, I know it's a process. But I'm excited to give back to my community.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: And so this is really exciting. From what I understand, there are going to be some branded restaurants.

So they're going to be Victor Cruz Krystal restaurants. And you're going to have some sports memorabilia in them. It's nice to hear you're going to be hands on. How hands on do you think you're going to be?

VICTOR CRUZ: As much as I can, you know, especially-- you know, this is my home. This is my area. Paterson is where I grew up. So it's not even so much about being hands on. Of course, it is.

But it's just about being home and being with the people and being with my community and listening to them and, you know, just being in tune with what they're-- what they're talking about and what they're doing.

And obviously, the memorabilia is a huge part. Just to go in there, and you walk in and say, oh, this is Krystal. But this is Victor Cruz's Krystal. Do you know what I mean? You'll see the memorabilia everywhere, jerseys, helmets, cleats even. You know, we're still narrowing that stuff down.

But we're very excited for people to know and walk into places and say, oh my god, this is-- you know, Victor Cruz had his personal touch in here.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Is there going to be any like merch for sale-- like Victor Cruz merch for sale?

VICTOR CRUZ: Maybe, Alexis. We've got to keep people honest, OK. You've got to keep people wanting some more. I can't give them everything just yet. [INAUDIBLE] merchandising opportunities there as well for sure.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: And so I'm sure you've-- you've tried the food. You've tried their burgers. And you're obviously on board with all that.

VICTOR CRUZ: Absolutely, it tastes great. People from the South I've asked-- you know, I've had to do the due diligence of asking people actually from the Southeast area, have you heard of this place? Do you like them?

And all the reviews I've got been outstanding, how much they love them, how much they've been going there for years, how much their family has put them onto it as well growing up. So I'm excited to have that same type of lineage in the Northeast area.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: So I'm sure you get asked to partner with lots and lots of brands, right. So how do you decide who to say yes to? What do you look for in a business opportunity?

VICTOR CRUZ: Well, I just look for the sense of-- do our-- do the things that we want out of this align? Do our goals align in this? Like, are the end result both things that we want out of this when we sat down and have the conversation?

And that was the biggest thing that stood out to me. It was that we want the same goals. We want to help these communities. And they want to do it through someone like myself who has reached back to Paterson, New Jersey-- who has reached back to the entire Northeast area.

But it was more about giving back and creating a legacy in Paterson, New Jersey to start. And then we'll branch off to other places in the-- obviously in the Northern New Jersey area as well.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: That's exciting stuff to look forward to. But I know you also have a pretty diversified business portfolio there, Victor. I saw you recently signed on as a strategic partner and advisor for that peer-to-peer sports betting company Profit Exchange. Why was that appealing to you?

VICTOR CRUZ: Well, I thought that was just something that as the betting-- and you know, all my friends are gambling and betting and always into it. And they talk about it.

And I was like, man, if I can get into something or something comes across my table that is, A, fun, right. Like, you know, Profit Exchange just sounded like, you know, there's a bunch of younger gentleman that kind of run the business and run the brand. And they want to do cool, innovative things.

And I wanted to be at the ground floor of that. And that's when they brought me in. Their still-- I think they launch a month. So we'll be on the ground floor of kind of expanding that, making some visuals so people can kind of understand it.

And betting could be a little difficult sometimes-- spreads and things like that. So it makes a little bit more streamlined for people to learn how to bet and not be so mandated with the-- with the rules of how stern some of the rules are in betting and other platforms.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: So I know fantasy sports is a big part of that. It's a-- it's big business, right. But I'm wondering how good it is for the game and then specifically for the brands of individual players? Because as opposed to being loyal to a team, a fantasy team is players made up of a bunch of different teams.

VICTOR CRUZ: Yes, interesting. It's twofold, right, because as a player, you know, fans are starting to get to know you even more now.

So like 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 new points or not gaining points.

So from a player-- from a player perspective, you're getting the notoriety of like people getting to know you or more fans getting to know you in a-- in a different way.

And then on the flip side, it's always, you know, interesting to me, obviously, when that player doesn't do well or that player doesn't perform to the best of their ability. There's a flip side to that coin, right?

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Right.

VICTOR CRUZ: So-- so there's just balance in that. But I think fantasy football is here to stay. It's not going anywhere. People love it. There's parties. There's mascot parties to do drafts. It's just so many different things. I don't think it's going anywhere any soon.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Now, for those who don't know, you were not drafted by the NFL after playing at UMass. You were actually a walk-on for the New York Giants.

It's a pretty incredible success story. What is it about that experience, Victor, that sort of translates into the way, you know, you tackle your business ventures now?

VICTOR CRUZ: Man, it's the same mindset, you know. It's every day is a new day, you know. You don't know when you're going to get cut, so to speak.

So you kind of just want to go in every day and take advantage of their opportunity and really stay focused and lock in on what you do. I think I treat everything I do now off the field with the same intensity, the same-- you know, the same diligence and the same preparation that I did playing football.

So I think that-- that helps me a ton going into these business meetings and opportunities because I'm able to be prepared for a lot of the things that I'm going to talk about or even present to them and then going there with a solid mindset-- to be able to talk through what I want to talk through-- and come through the other end.

And I think that's what-- that mindset of being an undrafted free agent is-- it's-- it's definitely different because every day, you know, you don't know what could happen. Every day could be your last day. And that mindset really just helps me channel in every day. And it helps me in the business aspect as well.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: And it keeps you hungry, right? Which is-- which is a big part of it on and off the field. Look, the NFL has made this big push to get its players vaccinated.

And they've done really well. Nearly 95% of NFL players now have gotten the shot. We know there is still some high profile holdout. Some people even misled their teams about their vaccination status.

When you hear all that-- I mean, even though you're not in the NFL right now-- what do you think about that? And what would you like to see happen?

VICTOR CRUZ: Well, it's a tough place right now, you know. Everybody has their own individual beliefs and their own individual ideals about how they want to move forward with the vaccination-- and furthermore-- not just as players in the NFL but as just individuals, right-- as human beings.

So you've got to respect that for whatever it is, wherever it is, whoever it is. You have to respect their decision to move the way they want to move.

But on the flip side, there's a lot at stake here, you know, like-- and in football, every week counts, every game matters. Every paycheck, you know, depends on every week that you perform out there.

And if something like a vaccination setting you back can hurt yourself, can hurt the team-- and it's just-- you know, it's a tough place to be as an athlete right now in the NFL. I honestly-- you know, I'm vaccinated.

But I honestly-- you know, if I was in the NFL, it'd be tough just even navigating it-- even just contracting COVID-- even when people are vaccinated, what that timetable looks like to get back on the field.

Are you even next to your teammates? You're probably secluded from everyone. [? Man, ?] there's so many things that happen behind the scenes that people don't know that can affect you as an-- as an individual.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: For sure. You know, it is hard to believe that it's the 10th anniversary of your Super Bowl win. I was at [? MetLife ?] a few weeks ago when you and Eli Manning and the rest of the guys were there to celebrate that anniversary. It was great to see you back on the field.

Now that you have had 10 years to look back on it, what stands out to you? What do you remember most about that day and that win?

VICTOR CRUZ: I'll tell you what, it goes fast, man. It goes fast. 10 years, I was like, wait, what, that was just yesterday we were out there playing and running around.

But what I-- what I remember the most is obviously the memories every time, you know, in the locker rooms. You know-- you know, each and every time-- even before the season, like, training with Eli in Hoboken, New Jersey outside on the street.

Like, and then for that to parlay all the way through to our relationship now and through that Super Bowl run and who we are today, it's just an incredible journey.

And I-- and I think about the entire thing each and every time I-- each and every day. I mean, it's hard not to. Do you know what I mean? It defines such a huge part of my life and my career that it's hard not to think about it.

But those memories, linking back up with the guys, seeing who got fat over the years-- you know, it's like, oh, you gained weight. You gained weight.

Because that's the first thing you want to see. It's like who-- who didn't take care of themselves in 10 years? But most of the guys look incredible. And-- and it was great to see everyone for sure.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: It's sort of like a school reunion, right?

VICTOR CRUZ: Exactly.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Like, who got fat? Who got the-- look, I mean, right-- you know, right now-- present day-- it has been another tough season for a Giants fans. I mean, I know I am one of them. So what do these Giants need to do to get back in contention?

VICTOR CRUZ: Man, they just need to, you know, first of all get healthy. I-- I think that's the biggest thing that's plagued us all year long. Just health wise to all of our-- and-- you know, and not just guys that-- you know, these are guys that seek substantial playing time-- that are key figures in this team success.

And to not have them for x amount of games or x amount of times or even the big games where we need all hands on deck, you know, we're down a few players.

So it's just been tough-- a tough season to watch. And I think they just have to figure out how to finish the season on a bright note and then go into the offseason with what I believe will be some major changes to that football team.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Now, you are quite the fashion plate. I'm going to move away from football for a minute because I have seen you at New York Fashion Week. You go to that Met Gala pretty much every year.

And you recently took your old QB Eli Manning shopping for vintage Giants gear. I love that. So does Eli need a little help in the huddle when it comes to what to wear?

VICTOR CRUZ: Uh, sometimes. I mean-- not-- not that he needs help. He's more-- so he's like the one-trick pony, right. You see, Eli, he's a plaid shirt, brown belt, slacks or khakis, blue navy. He keeps it very much within his wheelhouse, which I love, you know. Everybody has their thing. And I love it.

But sometimes, you just need to like break out of that shell a little bit, kind of get out of your comfort zone, put something on that you love or something that may be a little different-- something that you're not used to.

But to Eli's credit, man, he owned it. He put it on and immediately felt the swagger and was like, OK, I need to go outside and like walk around. People need to see me in this. And I was like dying laughing. It was the best [INAUDIBLE].

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: He was decked out. I was dying laughing too when I saw it. So what-- what's your fashion sense because you're-- you're a fashionable guy?

VICTOR CRUZ: Oh, man, I just try to be, you know-- what do I call that? I call it adult chic. It's what I call it. Like, I want to have-- you know, there's always like a piece. I always want something that stands out when I wear it.

Whether it's something subdued or whether it's something that's just a jacket or a shirt or pants, I always want one thing. I want you to walk away from our interaction like, those pants were kind of cool or like that shirt was fire or I love the hat that he had on.

You know, like, I always want one piece to kind of be the moment for me every time I get dressed. So that's kind of the MO. And then it kind of builds and evolves off of that.

Plus I'm fearless. Like, I don't-- I don't-- I don't think there's any wrong answer when it comes to fashion. I think it's all about how you feel, how you want to present yourself. And then you can go from there. There is no wrong answer, you know.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Well, you are making it work for yourself, Victor. Now, I'm sure you heard that another former Giant Michael Strahan is going to go up to space on Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin. What do you think about that? Is that something you would ever want to do?

VICTOR CRUZ: First of all, I asked if he could put me in his luggage-- [? is ?] [? there's ?] an extra, [? like, ?] place for me on the-- on the-- on the ship-- on the rocket, obviously.

But I would love to do that. I mean, shout out to Michael Strahan. It's-- it's really incredible the fact that-- you know, I think the whole ride lasts about 20 minutes or 10 minutes or so-- 11 minutes or something like that.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Yeah, exactly, about 10 minutes.

VICTOR CRUZ: But I'm here for it. Like, I want to see it. I want to see-- you know, all of us have been dying to see what space looks like and what the Earth looks like from-- you know, from outer space.

So to be able to have that moment even if it's just for 11 minutes is pretty cool. So shout out to Strahan. Maybe he can show me some photos when he gets back-- when he gets back.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Do you hear that, Jeff Bezos? Victor Cruz is on board. Before we let you go, you have such a special relationship with the guys you played with 10 years ago especially QB Eli Manning. What makes that relationship so special? And was that sort of the secret sauce to that team?

VICTOR CRUZ: I think so. I think it goes back to those one-on-one kind of training sessions in Hoboken, like, when we first really just got to know each other.

And not even knowing-- like, I was just, you know, undrafted rookie [? or ?] my second year during that time. And I'm going to just throw with him because he's in the area and nobody else lived in the area but me.

So I go. And I kind of throw with him. And I'm scared at the time, intimidated. It was Eli Manning. But he made it so seamless for me and was cool and was talking to me and was giving me early advice on the offense.

And I think that really helped not just, you know, carry on and-- and make it through the training camp and make the team. But once I made the team, it helped us build a rapport and kind of just put us on track to-- to-- to be, you know, the duo that we became and make plays and go out there and help this team win.

So I think that-- without us knowing it-- those early days of getting to know each other in Hoboken really paid off towards the back end of our career.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: And you can see the bomb continues. Have you caught-- or maybe you've even been on the Manning brothers' show for "Monday Night Football."

VICTOR CRUZ: I watch it all the time. I kind of go back and forth because I like-- I like to hear them talk. But then I like to hear the game. So I'm like toggling back and forth the whole time.

But I haven't been on the show yet. And I just saw Eli recently. And I was like, what's up, bro? Like, when do I get-- oh, we got-- there's only a couple more weeks left to the season. Like, what do [INAUDIBLE].

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: [LAUGHS] They've got to get you on. It's so entertaining. Even if-- even if what's happening on the field is not all that entertaining, they always are, right?

VICTOR CRUZ: Absolutely, they've got great guests. They're bantering with each other. Joe Buck just, you know, letting Peyton Manning have it last week. It was just-- it was great to just see them.

And that's Eli-- believe it or not-- and Peyton all the time. Like, when they're not on-- when they're not on TV, that's who they are. They're joking. They're laughing. They're enjoying the game, bantering. That's all the time. So for people to kind of get a look into them and see that, it's-- it's pretty special.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: It's authentic-- authentic Manning. And you are authentic, Victor Cruz. We want to thank you for spending this time with us here at Yahoo Finance. Best of luck with all the business ventures, by the way.

VICTOR CRUZ: No problem, Alexis. Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.