An undrafted wide receiver out of the University of Massachusetts, Cruz caught the eyes of coaching staff this summer during the team's workouts. He made a name for himself during a preseason Monday night game against the Jets, grabbing three touchdowns. By the end of the night, everyone was asking, 'Who is this guy?' Raised by a single Puerto Rican mother and a native of Paterson, New Jersey, Cruz had become a valuable member of the Giants' special teams squad he got injured earlier this month. "It's definitely inspirational to see these guys come through and making a name for themselves and the Latino community really embracing those guys," he said. "Me coming in and being a new addition to it, I just want to represent for all Latinos and make sure our presence is felt on a weekly basis."
Romo caught the eyes of NFL executives during the combine leading up to the 2003 NFL Draft, yet still went undrafted. The second-generation Mexican-American hooked up with Dallas as a rookie free agent and, despite almost being left off the team the following season, was was able to stay on. He later became the starting quarterback for America’s Team in October 2006. The Cowboys have struggled this year and are last place in the NFC East with a 1-4 record. Romo has played a role in the team’s bad start with seven interceptions. Despite failing to make the playoffs last season, Romo has guided Dallas to the playoffs in his first four seasons as a starting quarterback.
González traded his basketball shorts and running up and down the hardwood for the chance to wear the pads and a helmet on the grass field. In his 14th season, after spending his first 12 with the Kansas City Chiefs, Gonzalez is the league’s all-time leader in receptions for a tight end. The thought of ‘what if’ pops in his end when he thinks of the NBA and what-could-have-been. “Yeah, I think about what if, but I know my calling was tight end," he said. González, who has Hispanic, African American and Indian roots, said the influx of Latino players is good for the game. "It's all over the place because it only helps the game out. It's so good for the game. I'm glad. It's going to keep getting better and better."
Nicknamed the "Sanchise," Sánchez guided the Jets to within one game of the Super Bowl in his rookie season last year. The second-year starter out of USC threw for 2,444 yards and 12 touchdowns but was picked off 20 times. So far all has gone the right way as Sánchez has lead the Jets to be best record in the league at 5-1. The Mexican-American has thrown for 1,100 yards with nine touchdowns and only two interceptions. Sánchez cherishes being one the league's young Latino stars. "It's an honor to represent my family's heritage," he said. "It's an honor to be American because we have that chance to celebrate our heritage and our history. A pretty unique country that we get to play in and represent. It's an honor and extra motivation."
The Brooklyn native left The Big Apple and lived a few years in the Dominican Republic with his mother until they moved back and settled down in New Jersey. A 2005 28th overall draft pick by the Chargers out of Northwestern, Castillo is one of three Latinos on the San Diego roster. He made the 2006 Pro Bowl as a second alternate. “We’re not a lot but there aren’t any doubts about the effect that Hispanics players have had in this league, the effect that we’ve had in a lot of positions because we’ve had stars in all places. … What’s more important about that is to keep motivating the youngsters and keep showing them that as Latinos we can do it. With a lot of work and a lot of effort, you can accomplish everything in life.”
Muñoz retired years ago, but his legacy and class has been an inspiration for many of the League's Latino players. "Somebody like Anthony Muñoz, that's somebody I looked up to growing and I'm just glad I could continue that," said Tony González. Another offensive lineman, the Chicago Bears Roberto Garza, modeled his game Muñoz. "Players like Anthony Muñoz paved the way for us and now we're paving the way for the next generation. Hopefully, we'll have a lot more players."
These NFL stars honor their Latino predecessors who made it possible for their success. "Somebody like Anthony Muñoz. That's somebody I looked up to growing, and I'm just glad I could continue that, and now it's expanding," says All-Star tight end Tony González.