The New York City sports world held its breath when New York Giants star wide receiver Victor Cruz went down to the turf on a routine play last season, clutching his knee. His torn patella tendon ended his 2014-15 campaign short, but rehabbing himself back to peak physical condition was a task the 28-year-old New Jersey native was ready to take on.

After an unconventional route to the NFL (with his college career at the University of Massachusetts and making the team after a breakout 2010 pre-season), Cruz made sure his signature “salsa” end-zone celebration would return sooner than later. And his moves on the field have landed him several opportunities off the field—like guest-starring in three episodes of the new HBO series Ballers, which is loosely based around life as a pro-football player, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Dulé Hill and Omar Benson Miller. had the chance to sit and talk with Victor about his rehab process, life off the field and how he’s brought real life NFL experiences to the small screen.

EBONY: With your patella injury cutting your season short, what was your mindstate on returning to top condition?

Victor Cruz: It was tough. It was the most gruesome thing I’ve ever had to endure, and it takes patience. You have to listen to your doctors and specialists, and you can’t rush things. But I’ve had to endure things in my life that were harder than this, so I knew I had the diligence to push forward. My recovery is right on target. I’m running routes again, I’m getting my quickness back. So I’ll be ready by the beginning of the season.

EBONY: You didn’t take the common route to the NFL. How has this entire experience been during your route to NFL stardom?

VC: It’s been a blessing, man. Life has definitely been a roller coaster, with getting used to people recognizing who you are and stuff, but it’s been great. I don’t shy from autographs and things like that, just because you can never forget where you came from and when people didn’t know you. And it’s humbling to be looked at as an inspiration to someone who didn’t get drafted and is a long shot to make it. I love the game and everything it’s brought to me.

EBONY: What was it like to have HBO call and want you a part of their show shedding light on life as an NFL star?

VC: The show is dope! They’ve got [ex-NFL running back] Rashard Mendenhall as a writer on the show, and he’s done a great job in bringing that realness of NFL life to the storyline. He’s there to tell them the realness, and from what I’ve seen in the episodes I’ve been in, the authenticity is there.

EBONY: As a music fan, are you going to use [Virginia rapper] D.R.A.M.’s smash single “Cha Cha” song to go along with your signature touchdown celebration this season?

VC: I haven’t heard the record. But if it’s as dope as you say and it fits, for sure! I’m all about new music and new artists, so I’ll make sure to check it out.