Cruz was born in Paterson, New Jersey, on November 11, 1986 to Blanca Cruz and Michael Walker, a black firefighter. His mother is Puerto Rican. Cruz's father committed suicide in 2007.
Cruz attended Paterson Catholic High School in Paterson. He completed a post-graduate semester at Bridgton Academy in North Bridgton, Maine. Cruz put up 47 catches for 883 yards and eight touchdowns in his single season at Bridgton Academy. At Paterson Catholic, Victor played wide receiver and defensive back for coach Andrew Slome, who he credits for his success. He earned All-State honors as a senior in 2003, when the team went undefeated at 11–0 and captured the New Jersey Parochial Group I championship. That season, Cruz caught 42 passes and scored 19 touchdowns—15 on receptions.
Cruz initially struggled to successfully combine his college studies with his football career, and was twice sent home from the University of Massachusetts for academic reasons. He only became eligible to play for the University of Massachusetts (UMass) in 2007, but went on to have both a solid college football career and to complete a college degree.
Cruz finished his career at University of Massachusetts with 131 catches ranking him fourth on the all-time UMass receptions list, despite the fact that he didn't start a game until his junior season. He scored 11 touchdowns in his career and had just under 2,000 receiving yards. Cruz was named a first-team All-Colonial Athletic Association wide receiver for the years 2008 and 2009.
Cruz went undrafted in the 2010 NFL Draft and was signed the day after the draft by the New York Giants.
In a preseason game against the New York Jets on August 16, 2010, Cruz helped the Giants win 31-16 by catching six passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns. He would finish the preseason leading the NFL with 297 receiving yards, tied for the preseason lead with four touchdown catches, and was selected to the Giants' 53-man regular season roster. He was praised and highlighted by critics for his performance throughout the preseason. He played in three games at the start of the season, before a hamstring injury placed him on injured reserve for the remainder of the year.
After the Giants lost Steve Smith to free agency, Cruz began the season as the team's fourth wide receiver, before injury to Domenik Hixon led to him receiving a larger role in the Giants win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Against a heavily favored Eagles team composed of monstrous free agency signings, Cruz made a huge impact. Most highlighted was a Cruz reception made between two defenders in which he took to the end zone for a touchdown. Cruz finished that game with 3 catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns, the first and second of his career.
On October 2, 2011 with the Giants trailing 27-24 to the Arizona Cardinals in the fourth quarter with under three minutes left to play, Cruz made a reception and went down without being touched at the Cardinals 29-yard line and released the ball as he got up. Believing that Cruz had fumbled since he was never touched, a Cardinal picked up the ball as if it was still alive. The play was whistled dead, but further replay after the game showed Cruz did appear to fumble. On the next play, Eli Manning threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks.
In a Week 5 36-25 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Cruz caught a one-handed 68-yard touchdown reception off a tipped pass. Later in the game, Cruz also lost a fumble, allowing Seattle to tie the game at 22 and with the Giants down 29-25 inside the 20, Cruz slipped on his route with the ball in the air and in an attempt to catch the ball, tipped it into the arms of Brandon Browner, who returned it 94 yards for the game clinching touchdown.
In Week 16, he tied the NFL record with an explosive 99-yard touchdown catch against the New York Jets. His 89 yards after the catch on the play is the most by a receiver on a 99-yard reception. This catch has constantly been highlighted as the turning point of the Giants 2011 season. In the same game Cruz also surpassed Amani Toomer as the record holder for the most single-season receiving yards by a Giant.
In Week 17, in a do-or-die game against the Dallas Cowboys for the final playoff slot in the NFC, Cruz had six receptions for 178 yards, including the game's first score with a 74-yard touchdown catch, as well as a fourth quarter, 44-yard catch on third and seven that put the Giants in position to make a field goal that put the Giants up by two scores. The Giants added another touchdown, a 4-yard pass from Eli Manning to Hakeem Nicks, setting a record of 15 fourth quarter touchdown passes in one season for Eli Manning and beat the Cowboys 31-14. Cruz was praised for terrific route running and decimating the Cowboys defense. Cruz finished the season with a single season franchise record 1,536 receiving yards on 82 receptions and nine touchdowns. Cruz was named a Second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press.
Against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game, Cruz had 10 catches for 142 yards—all in the first half—as the Giants edged the 49ers, 20-17, in overtime to advance to Super Bowl XLVI. The Giants then advanced to winning the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots for another Super Bowl title.
Cruz has been popularly known for celebrating nearly every touchdown with a salsa dance. He has stated that it was in honor of his deceased grandmother who taught him how to dance salsa and loved touchdown dances. The New York Daily News even had a dance instructor write about his technique. Cruz's touchdown dance led to him receiving an offer to appear on Dancing with the Stars, which he turned down.
On June 14, 2013, Cruz signed his one-year, $2.879 million restricted free agent tender. On July 8, 2013, Cruz signed a five-year, $45.879 million total, contract extension. This made the total a six-year deal, including the free agent tender. Cruz suffered a heel bruise in August 18 preseason game. Unlike Center David Baas's injury, Victor Cruz's heel bruise was deemed minimal in nature.
On October 12, 2014, against the Philadelphia Eagles, Cruz suffered a torn patellar tendon, prematurely ending his 2014 season. In six games of 2014, Cruz produced 337 receiving yards and a touchdown.
After a long rehab, Cruz gave an update informing the media he wasn't yet fully recovered but mostly there. Cruz returned to training camp in the summer of 2015, but unfortunately aggravated his calf. The aggravation of his calf further pushed back his return to originally week 5. From Week 5, Cruz's return was pushed to play in Week 10 against the Patriots, but it was later announced that Cruz would undergo surgery on his left calf, and would miss the entire 2015 season. On November 17, 2015, he was placed on season-ending injured reserve.
After two years of rehab, Cruz returned to NFL play on September 11, 2016, in the Giants opener against Dallas. That afternoon, he scored a game-winning touchdown and celebrated with a salsa dance, his first in 2 years. Victor Cruz would follow up his performance against the New Orleans Saints catching a game winning catch in the final minutes of the game. The Giants would win 16-13. On September 17, Cruz was fined $12,154 for excessive celebration related to dancing in the endzone with fellow wideout Odell Beckham Jr., who was also fined for the same reason.
On February 13, 2017, Cruz was released by the Giants.
On May 25, 2017, Cruz signed a one–year deal with the Chicago Bears. On September 2, 2017, Cruz was released by the Bears.
Cruz has a daughter, Kennedy, with Elaina Watley; they became engaged on the day of their daughter's baptism. In the summer of 2010, Cruz founded the "Young Whales" clothing line with former teammate Nate Collins. Cruz and former teammate Osi Umenyiora were among the brand's original models.
Following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, Cruz honored one of the victims, Jack Pinto, age 6. Pinto was a fan of Cruz, who wore a tribute on his shoes in the game against the Atlanta Falcons two days after the massacre. In permanent marker, one shoe read "R.I.P. Jack Pinto" and the other "Jack Pinto My Hero." On December 19, 2012, he visited the Pinto family in Newtown, saying, "I felt like it was only right that I pay my respects to him and be as comforting to that family as much as I can." Cruz gave the cleats and gloves he wore in the Falcons' game to Pinto's brother, Ben.
Cruz has been a resident of Lyndhurst, New Jersey.