By Ben Fractenberg and Amy Zimmer
MANHATTAN — Victor Cruz, the New York Giants' wide receiver with a winning smile and shaking hips, has salsa danced his way off the football field and into the New York City fashion world.
The Super Bowl champ scored a contract with IMG hours after Sunday's win against the New England Patriots, and now he's the new poster boy for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, cutting the ribbon on Wednesday afternoon to kick off the fall 2012 season.
"Excuse my throat," said Cruz, who worked his way up from Paterson, N.J. into the hearts of millions of fans — even inspiring Madonna to mimic his moves."I kind of lost my voice at the parade with all those great Giants fans."
The fashion event attracted football fans, who were yelling "Cruz" on the sidelines.
"I'm excited to see a lot of great fashion, a lot of shows," Cruz said. "It's always been my dream to be here."
Cruz, who signed with the sports side of the IMG for endorsements and other commercial opportunities, joins a long line of athletes who have crossover appeal in the modeling world.
"We hope this means we will soon be blessed with a steamy, shirtless ad campaign from the Giants wide receiver à la David Beckham for H&M and Rafael Nadal for Armani Jeans," the blog Fashionista wrote.
Cruz appeared Wednesday at Lincoln Center with model Kate Upton. Stephanie Winston-Wolkof, the director of Fashion at Lincoln Center and Peter Levy, IMG Fashion's managing director, were also on hand for the ceremony.
"As New Yorkers, we're tremendously proud of the Giants Super Bowl victory," Levy said, "and can't wait to see Victor sitting front row at some shows."