NFL: GIANTS

The Pinto fam­ily had buried Jack, 6, in his No. 80 jersey.

Austin American-Statesman - - FOOTBALL - By­tom Canavan CUR­TIS COMP­TON / AT­LANTA JOUR­NAL-CON­STI­TU­TION

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For much of his hour-long visit with the fam­ily of a 6year-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 first­graders 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.”

Cruz had writ­ten “Jack Pinto, My Hero” and “R.I.P. Jack Pinto” on his cleats be­fore the Giants’ game Sun­day.

“It was just an emo­tional time,” Cruz said. “I spent a lit­tle bit of time with them. We got to smile a lit­tle bit, which was good for them. It was a time where I just wanted to be a pos­i­tive voice, a pos­i­tive light in the tun­nel where it can really be neg­a­tive, so it was a good time. They are a great fam­ily and they’re really united at this time and it was good to see.”

Giants wide re­ceiver Vic­tor Cruz gave the cleats and gloves he wore in Sun­day’s game to the fam­ily of Jack Pinto in New­town, Conn. This shoe has ‘R.I.P. Jack Pinto’ writ­ten on it.

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