There are many aspects to being a professional football player which make that job far different than most other occupations. Routine physical punishment. Million dollar salaries. Constant media scrutiny. But I can’t imagine anything preparing an athlete for this.

Three years ago, Victor Cruz was an all-conference receiver at UMass, catching passes at McGuirk Stadium here in the Valley. This past weekend, he received word that 6-year-old Jack Pinto, one of the victims of Friday’s horrific mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, would be buried wearing Cruz’s #80 New York Giants football jersey. Cruz was Pinto’s favorite player.

“There are no words that can describe the type of feeling you get when a kid idolizes you so much that they want to, unfortunately, put him in a casket with your jersey on,” offered Cruz. “I can’t even explain it.”

“I was in the hotel (in Atlanta) and as I was talking to them [the Pinto family] I was fighting back tears,” Cruz continued. “You could hear everybody in the background crying as well. It was tough to listen to.”

Cruz will be visting the Pinto family in Newtown this week, where he will present them with the cleats (which he inscribed “R.I.P. Jack Pinto,” and “Jack Pinto My Hero”) and gloves he wore this past Sunday during the Giants’ game against the Atlanta Falcons.

I can’t even imagine.