Posted: 1:26 pm Sunday, January 27th, 2013
By Matt Porter
Palm Beach Gardens offensive lineman James Cruise knew Florida International was interested in him. Head coach Mario Cristobal and his staff began contacting him last summer and remained in touch.
In early December, Cruise learned FIU planned to offer him a scholarship. On Dec. 5, Cristobal and an assistant were expected at Gardens to watch Cruise work out.
“I was all excited, and then I went on Twitter and found out Cristobal got fired,” Cruise said.
Cristobal never made it, having been let go by FIU that morning. Cruise was stunned. Luckily for him, new Panthers coach Ron Turner and his staff reached out several weeks later. They offered him last Wednesday, and after taking a visit to the school this weekend, Cruise committed.
“They’re all really cool,” Cruise said of the new staff. “They’re really down-to-Earth people. I like them all. They seem to know what they’re doing.”
Cruise, a 6-foot-4, 275-pound offensive lineman, had offers from several FCS programs, including FAMU, Stony Brook, Albany, Western Illinois, North Carolina Central and Bethune-Cookman.
FIU’s former Sun Belt rival South Alabama showed interest in Cruise last spring and offered him in August, but did not keep in contact.
Cruise graded out at 85 percent at left tackle for Gardens, earning a first-team spot on the Post’s All-Area large schools team.
FIU, which went 3-9 (2-6 Sun Belt) last season, jumps to Conference USA this fall. The Panthers had several local players on its roster, including redshirt sophomore wide receiver James Louis (Atlantic), freshman offensive lineman Trent Saunders (Benjamin), senior offensive tackle Rupert Bryan Jr. (Glades Central), freshman safety Davison Colimon (Suncoast), freshman linebacker Patrick Jean (Treasure Coast) and freshman offensive lineman Edens Sineace (Palm Beach Central).