Less than a year removed from kicking between the uprights at Weinman Stadium, Jonathan Cruz is now breaking records as a 49er. Cruz was a two-star recruit coming out of Cartersville High School, but he’s quickly kicked his way into being one of the top 30 kickers in the nation. And he’s a freshman.
“It is just being new, transitioning into college and all the classes and stuff; it’s a great experience to be a freshman,” said Cruz.
Transitioning isn’t unfamiliar to Cruz; he transitioned from soccer to football at Cartersville High. Cruz has shown he’s an exceptional athlete, whether he’s kicking field goals or penalty kicks.
“It all started in soccer, then it transitioned into the form of football. If it wasn’t for soccer, I wouldn’t be playing football right now. It was easier to get a scholarship in football too. I did get looked at in soccer, but football I liked better,” said Cruz.
Whether it’s soccer or football, Cruz is a competitor who prepares routinely before every kick. He attributes his accuracy and efficiency to his preparedness.
“I used to have a routine through high school, so it was just praying and knowing that every kick is a new kick. I don’t take every kick into pressure, but it’s something I just look forward to every game,” said Cruz.
Cruz is an extremely humble and spiritual individual who comes from a winning high school program. Cartersville High School’s head football coach Joey King coached Cruz and standout quarterback for the Clemson Tigers, Trevor Lawrence, in high school.
“It was a great experience; I played with one of the best players in the nation, Trevor Lawrence, and it was great playing with him,” said Cruz. “We have great fans up there just like we have in Charlotte, so it was a great experience and I’ll never forget the four years I was there.”
Cruz and Cartersville High won the 2016 Georgia 4A State Championship, so he’s accustomed to winning. Coach King emphasized winning at Cartersville and so does Coach Lambert here at Charlotte.
“They’re both great coaches. They both have their differences, just a different place, but they have the same mentality to win,” said Cruz.
Charlotte is in the process of rebounding from a 1-11 season last year and are already sitting at a better record than this time last year.
Cruz’s winning mentality is just one of the many things needed to make that happen. He committed to Charlotte to win football games, but that’s not the only reason.
“I liked the campus and coaches, they treated me like family. All the other places did great, but I choose the place that felt like home,” said Cruz.
Cruz is comfortable at Charlotte, which may explain him being 7-8 on field goal attempts at home. He’s automatic at Jerry Richardson Stadium. His consistency thus far demonstrates how much his contribution to the team matters.
“They needed help last year, so I felt like I could come in and help right away,” said Cruz.
Cruz wants to help the 49ers and he has four years to do so. It’s only the beginning for Cruz and he understands this.
“It’s a great chance. I want to get a Preseason [Award] next year, so I gotta work hard to get that. I just wanna help my team and get all the wins we can possibly get,” said Cruz.
A game the 49ers didn’t win was Cruz’s favorite game of the season thus far. Cruz tied the school record for most field goals made in a single game during this contest, and he exhibited his leg talent throughout the entire contest. Included in his record-breaking game was a 54-yard field goal, the longest in school history.
Cruz is currently a 49er, but he sees a bigger stage ahead of him. He has NFL aspirations and his talent warrants said aspirations. Playing in the league is a dream of his that he’ll be chasing for the next four years.
“Hopefully that dream comes true one day, if everything works out and all my work put in works for me,” said Cruz.
Cruz is already one of the top kickers in the nation, so his ceiling as a player is limitless. The future of 49ers football seems to be on the right track, especially when Cruz is kicking the way he’s currently kicking.
The 49ers continue to impress this season and show why last season was a fluke. They now also have a kicker who can help to kick them closer to the top of the conference. Look for Cruz to continue to impress throughout the season as he is sure to do so.