Panther Profile: Mike Cruz

Over the next few weeks as the Panthers finish up spring practice, the Pantherdigest will be profiling the members of the class of 2008 that will land in Oakland this year. You will read several interesting stories about the future Panthers including Bishop McCort tight end Mike Cruz.

Let's set the record straight on future Pittsburgh Panthers' tight end Mike Cruz.

He likes Pitt. He grew up rooting for Pitt. His favorite player was Larry Fitzgerald.

And so despite verbally committing to Pitt last year, then changing his mind, and finally deciding that he wanted to be a Panther after all, Cruz (6-4, 255) wants everyone to know why he was a bit hesitant at first.

It has been well reported that Cruz mother, Martha Bernard, was apprehensive about her son choosing to play for a university with an urban campus.

"You have to understand, we lived in New York City and was just hearing what others would say," Cruz said.

In fact, Cruz was born in Brooklyn, but his mother did not feel it was a suitable environment to raise children so she moved her family to Johnstown, where some family members resided, when he was only three years old.

Mrs. Bernard is protective of her children- Cruz went to Catholic school for all but two years growing up- and rarely ventured from the Johnstown area.

"She's the stay at home type," said Cruz.

Throw in the cultural divide Pittsburgh has with Central Pennsylvania and a mother could be skeptical if she hears negative comments concerning the "Big City" she's rarely, if ever, visited.

"The coaching staff eased her mind and showed her Oakland isn't a bad place," he said.

Realizing there is a big difference between a typical city and an urban campus, Mrs. Bernard gave her blessing to her son's first choice.

"I loved Pitt all along," he says. "Pitt is always where I wanted to be. It's the chance of a lifetime."

Considering Cruz had offers from some of the most revered programs in college football; Florida State, Nebraska, and Clemson, or could have played with his brother Jose at Akron, the events of his recruitment make sense.

Pitt fans will be happy to know Cruz is quick to laugh and receptive to new ideas.

"I will do almost anything once. In a good way, not a negative way with drugs or alcohol."

He also is undecided on a major, but with his favorite television shows being Law and Order and CSI, it's not surprising to know he is considering criminal justice.

On the field, Pitt will be getting a player who caught 32 passes for eight touchdowns during his last two years at Bishop McCort High School, enabling the Crimson Crushers to finish 12-2 in 2007.

On defense, Cruz recorded 74 tackles and nine sacks during his junior and senior seasons.

He also was a leading scorer for the basketball team and participated in throwing events as a member of the track and field team.

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