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Orange County Prep Review / Mike DiGiovanna : Next Stop for This Cruz: the NFL : That's Where Trabuco Hills' Freshman Coach Hopes to Go

January 20, 1986|MIKE DIGIOVANNA

To many Orange County high school football coaches, the head coaching position at Orange Coast College would be the ultimate vacancy to fill, but Tony Cruz, the freshman coach at Trabuco Hills High in Mission Viejo, has his sights set on bigger and better things.

Cruz wants to be a head coach in the National Football League.

"And nothing less," he said.

Now, if the name Tony Cruz doesn't ring a bell, don't worry. It shouldn't. And if you're trying to recall where he coached in college or high school, forget it.

Cruz has never been a Division 1 college football coach. He has never been a head coach in high school.

He has coached Pop Warner for three years in New York. His resume also states that, from 1968-72, Cruz was the head coach of the Mid-Queens Boys Club, which played in the Kyle Rote Metropolitan Conference in Queens, N.Y.

After that, Cruz became the head coach at Queens College for seven years, and spent the next six years as offensive coordinator for the New York City Police Dept. football team. You know, New York's finest.

His police team played departments from other cities, and its biggest game, of course, was the annual showdown against the inmates from the Correctional Institute of New York. Sort of the Super Bowl of Sing Sing.

In between coaching endeavors, Cruz worked for four years as a sportscaster at radio stations in Hempstead, N.Y. and Providence, R.I. He recently worked for three years at a television station in New Bedford, Mass.

So, what makes Cruz think that he's qualified to coach in the NFL?

"I've coached for 23 years, I have administrative experience, and handling people and communication are my strong points," said Cruz, 43, who played high school football in Rhode Island but didn't play at Queens College.

"I've always had the ability to motivate people, and I know the game. People say I've never coached at the pro level, and they ask me how I expect to coach in the pros, but football and administration are the same at all levels. There are few people I can't sit down and talk football with."

Besides, as Cruz said: "If you look at most teams in the NFL, not everyone has a winning record. I certainly couldn't do much worse than most of the other guys."

Cruz, who moved to Mission Viejo with his two sons last summer, admits that his chances of getting a job as a head coach in the NFL are "one in a million." But his pursuit is a serious one.

He has contacted the four teams--Houston, Philadelphia, New Orleans and St. Louis--with vacancies and sent resumes to each two weeks ago. He has procured the services of two sports agents, one in Orange County (Steve Feldman) and one in New York (Ken Knigin), to facilitate communication with the teams.

"All I'm asking them is to just give me an opportunity for an interview," Cruz said. "You never know in this life what's going to happen, but if you put limitations on yourself, how are you going to do anything?

"I tell my kids that there isn't anything they can't do. And I owe it to every minority kid in this country to step up and say I am capable of doing this job and doing it successfully."

If a high school teacher from New Jersey (Eric Schubert) can kick for the New York Giants, well, what the heck? Why can't a radio guy from Rhode Island coach them? Didn't Pat Riley go from the broadcasting booth to the Laker bench as an assistant to Paul Westhead?

The idea may seem far-fetched, but Cruz is giving his best shot. If he doesn't make the NFL, he'll resume his job as a sales representative for Acme Linen of Los Angeles and continue coaching at Trabuco Hills.

Either way, he'll get at least one football promotion. Cruz will coach the Mustangs' sophomore team instead of the freshman team.

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