AJ Cruz: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

(Twitter: aydotjaydot_23)

(Twitter: AydotJaydot_)

The Chicago Bears have a new player on the roster in AJ Cruz. One of the weakest spots on the roster heading into training camp is in the return game. In 2014, it was a smorgasbord of mediocrity as Chris Williams, Marc Mariani, Santonio Holmes and others struggled to stand out at the position. What made it worse was that former returner Devin Hester — one of the best at his position ever — was still at the top of his game for the Atlanta Falcons.

Former coordinator Joe DeCamillis got the boot along with Marc Trestman and the rest of his staff, and Jeff Rodgers was brought in by new coach John Fox.

Looking for a spark at the position, the Bears signed former Arena League standout Cruz on Monday. Here’s what you need to know about the 24-year-old.

1. The Bears Are Cruz’s First NFL Team

(Twitter: aydotjaydot_23)

(Twitter: aydotjaydot_23)

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Bears GM Ryan Pace saw Cruz’s film and liked what he saw. He had a tryout with the Bears earlier Monday before being an offered a contract by the organization.

At 5-foot-8, 190 pounds, AJ Cruz is being compared to former Texas Tech and New England Patriots star Wes Welker, who was similar in size and speed. The Bears open training camp July 30 and Cruz is the 90th and final player on the roster.

2. He Played Defensive Back at Brown University

AJ Cruz 1AJ Cruz, Brown University. CB/DB 5'9 190. 4x All-Ivy League. Also can KR and PR2012-12-24T07:51:45Z

While at Brown, he was a three-time All-Ivy selection. He graduated in 2013 and, after not being drafted into the NFL, soon turned to the professional ranks with the Arena Football League. As a junior, he was named first team FCS All-American with eight interceptions and had the fourth highest kick return average with 31.15 yards.

Prior to Brown, Cruz attended Santa Margarita Catholic High School, a Prep school in California. His home town is listed as Lake Forest, California.

3. He Signed With Arena Football League’s LA Kiss in 2014

AJ Cruz LA Kiss Highlightsmusic by Andy Mineo "You cant Stop Me" i do not own rights2014-07-04T03:36:08Z

In his one season with the Los Angeles Kiss, Cruz had 1305 kick return yards. He also played defensive back and wide receiver and became a popular player in the community. Despite the successful season, the Kiss chose not to renew his contract, leaving him a free agent.

While with the Kiss, Cruz appeared in the team’s reality show: AMC’s “4th and Loud”. The show ran for 10 episodes in the summer and fall of 2014 before being canceled. 

4. The Arizona Rattlers Signed Cruz in 2015

2015 Arizona Rattlers #7 KR/DB A.J. Cruz2015-05-04T11:39:38Z

Prior to receiving the phone call from the Bears, Cruz signed a deal with the AFL’s Arizona Rattlers. He played the 2015 with the Rattlers, who went 13-3 and are now in the playoffs. Arena Bowl XXVIII is slated for the end of August.

The Rattlers placed him on an “Other League Exempt” list, meaning if he’s released by the Bears before the season starts he is eligible to return to the Rattlers. The Rattlers won the Arena Bowl in 2014.

5. The Bears Have 11 Other Wide Receivers on Their Roster

Bears GM Ryan Pace (Getty)

Bears GM Ryan Pace (Getty)

In addition to projected starters Alshon Jeffery and rookie Kevin White, the Bears signed slot receiver Eddie Royal. Joshua Bellamy, John Chiles, Rashad Lawrence, Cameron Meredith, Levin Norwood, Ify Umodu, Marquess Wilson and Marc Mariani on the roster. Due to his success returning, Cruz has an outside shot to make the roster.

In 2014, the Bears ranked 15th in the league with an average of 23.5 yards per kick return. Punt returns were a huge problem, though. Chicago had just 5.2 yards per punt return, by far the worst in the NFL. Will Cruz get an opportunity to improve the return game?

In the offseason, teams are allowed to have 90 players on the roster. Once the preseason begins, rosters will be cut to 75, then to 53 by Week 1 of the regular season.

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