Wednesday, August 06, 2014

With health scare out of way, Cruz ready to go at UConn

Maybe it something to do with the left guard position at UConn but when it comes to engaging interviews, Gus Cruz is proving he can give his predecessor Steve Greene a run for his money in the dealing with the media department.

While some of his teammates may have been in out of the defensive meeting room inside the Burton Family Football Complex - which doubles as the media interview room during practice - Cruz was willing to hold court for as long as those with inquiring minds had questions to ask.

Cruz certainly had plenty to talk about since he missed the final seven games of the 2013 season due to myocarditis, a cardiac condition caused by a vital infection, as well as the use of blood thinners to dissipate blood clots in his legs and lungs. He was held out of winter conditioning drills and spring practice and there were some questions whether he would be cleared to play as a senior.

Not only is Cruz back practicing but he has been working as the starting left guard.

Cruz spoke without hesitation about the frightening sense of uncertainty he was faced with due to his medical condition.

"Mentally just not knowing what it was in the beginning, that was really scary," Cruz said. "There were nights when I couldn't even sleep at times because I didn't know what was going to happen."

So what did happen?

"It was a viral infection that attacked my heart and had some swelling which slowed the capacity to my body so that was why the shortness of breath was developing because I wasn't getting enough oxygen," Cruz said after Wednesday's practice. "I had palpitations so when I mentioned I would wake up in the middle of the night, I would be asleep and it would wake me up. Mentally, I sit in my bed wondering at 3 in the morning what is happening to me. Nobody wants to be told their heart is not working correctly so that was the (biggest) thing and beyond that I had some blood clots developed in my legs and my lungs so that really slowed me down. I am all cleared now. 

"I am just happy to be back doing anything. I remember the first time they let me back in the weight room, I was excited. The first time they let me run I was excited. During spring practice I got to go in and lift with some of those guys. In the winter I didn't get to do any conditioning with them. I was able to work with the trainers and do little stuff here and there but they kept me out of a whole lot of stuff."

Cruz said he doesn't need to take any medicine and he has been given a clean bill of health, Obviously he is ecstatic to be back on the field once again.

"There was a time, it was a little dramatic but when you wake up, your heart is feeling funny and it is waking you up, I was thinking of my own mortality," Cruz said. "It sounds dramatic but there is a time when this might be it."

Cruz dropped 13 pounds from his listed weight of 309 he played at a season ago and is expected to be one of the vital cogs on UConn's offensive line which lost four seniors from a unit that struggled quite a bit a season ago.

"I am trying to be the best teammate I could be," Cruz said. "I was being realistic about the whole thing. I missed the whole spring and winter so the young guys stepping in were doing really well so I wasn't concerned about 'I am coming back and being a starter right away.' I was just looking forward to working in and helping them out. I still have a great relationship with the players and they were looking out for my best interests and asking me how I was doing today, the fact that I was out there some days running and doing drills, they were happy. Seeing that make you feel good, being a teammate there is a love there."

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