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Jeremy Lin, Victor Cruz, and the Top 10 Biggest Surprises in New York Sports

Ian HollenbergContributor IIFebruary 13, 2012

Jeremy Lin, Victor Cruz, and the Top 10 Biggest Surprises in New York Sports

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    Last Saturday, the sports world was introduced to Jeremy Lin. Lin, an undrafted rookie out of Harvard, had played briefly for the Golden State Warriors before signing with the New York Knicks this season.

    With the Knicks, Lin bounced around between D-League and the NBA, but on February 4, Lin made his name known for good. That night, Lin contributed 25 points, five rebounds, and seven assists in the Knicks' 99-92 win over the New Jersey Nets. After that game, Lin has started the next four games, scored 20 or more points in all of them (four Knicks wins), and has the entire country buzzing about "Linsanity" and other clever puns involving his last name.

    However, Lin is not even the only surprise star in New York City. Here are the top 10 surprise athletes from this past year of New York City sports.

10. John Tavares

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    New York Islanders' C John Tavares is a former No. 1 overall draft pick, so he would likely become a star sometime in the future, but the 21-year-old Tavares has already become one of the NHL's top players.

    Tavares is currently tied for 11th in the league in points, has made his first All-Star game, and currently has Islander fans excited about the future.

9. Justin Turner

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    In May 2010, the New York Mets signed former Baltimore Orioles second baseman Justin Turner. This turned out to be a great acquisition for the Mets.

    Turner had an excellent start of the season for the Mets, recording seven straight games with an RBI,  and winning the NL Rookie of the Month award in May. While Turner cooled off from his hot start, he provided Mets fans with other great moments, including a walk off hit-by-pitch in an extra inning game against the Oakland A's.

    Mets fans also love Turner's fiery hair, and his grittiness on the field.

    Turner will be one of the Mets' few assets off the bench this season.

8. Matt Moulson

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    Left winger Matt Moulson, drafted 263rd overall in the 2003 NHL Draft, played sparingly the first fews years of his NHL career. However, everything changed when Moulson signed with the New York Islanders in 2009. On Long Island, Moulson has been on the same line as former No. 1 pick John Tavares, and had 48 and 53 points respectably, during his first two seasons.

    This season, Moulson has looked even better. The Cornell grad has recorded 48 points (24 goals, 24 assists) in just 55 games so far, but unfortunately was snubbed from the All-Star game.

    Moulson signed a three-year contract with the Islanders this season, so hopefully he will thrive with Tavares for years to come.

7. Ivan Nova

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    Yankees SP Ivan Nova has made a name for himself in baseball. The undrafted Nova went 16-4 last season for the Yankees, earning a spot in the Yankees 2011 playoff rotation as well as a top-five finish in the AL Rookie of the Year race. 

    Nova had a great rookie year, and with Mariano Rivera and C.C. Sabathia on the roster, he will continue to improve by watching his star teammates.

    The 25-year-old Nova and new SP Michael Pineda will anchor the top of the Yankees' rotation for years to come.

6. Dan Girardi

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    New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi may have gone undrafted in the 2003 NHL Draft, but that didn't stop him from becoming an impact player in the NHL.

    With injuries to Rangers defensemen Marc Staal and Michael Sauer, Girardi became the interim assisstant captain for the Rangers, and had to play a larger role in the Blueshirts' blue-line.

    Girardi has been magnificent so far, leading the league in ice time and earning a spot as an NHL All-Star. 

    Girardi has made general managers all over the country look stupid for passing on him.

5. Aaron Maybin

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    In 2009, the Buffalo Bills selected Penn St. LB Aaron Maybin in the first round of the NFL Draft, and Maybin received a five-year contract months later. 

    After two seasons in Buffalo, Maybin looked like a bust, recording only 23 tackles and zero sacks.

    So before the 2011 season, Buffalo released Maybin, and Maybin was soon signed by the New York Jets.

    Maybin looked terrific for the Jets this year. He recorded a team-leading six sacks, including a strip-sack against Joe Flacco during his first game as a Jet. 

    While the Jets may have missed the playoffs, Maybin has turned his career around, and has made Bills fans everywhere cringe.

4. Dillon Gee

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    While the New York Mets had a disastrous 2011 season, they had a bright spot in SP Dillon Gee.

    Gee, a former 21st-rounder, impressed the Mets by starting the season 7-0 (and should have been 8-0 if it wasn't for a rainout that cost him a win.) 

    If the Mets want to achieve success next season, they will need Gee to continue to perform at the high level he's capable of.

3. Steve Weatherford

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    What a difference a new punter can make.

    Before the football season, nearly every Giants fan considered last year's offseason a failure. The Giants released popular offensive linemen Shaun O'Hara and Rich Seubert, lost WR Steve Smith to the Philadelphia Eagles, lost CB Terrell Thomas and DT Marvin Austin for the season, and did not sign any key agents.....

    Or not.

    Punter Steve Weatherford was a consistent performer all season, a big step forward from former Giants punter Matt Dodge. Weatherford potentially saved the Giants' season in the NFC Conference Championship game when he recovered Zak DeOssie's bad snap in time for K Lawrence Tynes to kick the game winning field goal.

    All of Weatherford's hard work payed off, as the 29-year-old won his first Super Bowl ring. 

2. Jeremy Lin

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    Jeremy Lin is currently the most talked about player in basketball. In his first four starts, all Knicks wins, Lin is averaging 27.3 points along with 8.3 assists. His incredible performances had Madison Square Garden going wild, and earned him Eastern Conference Player of the Week

    Despite only starting four games, Lin is already an inspiration to many, and has often been compared to...

1. Victor Cruz

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    New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz came out of nowhere this year to become one of the top wide receivers in the NFL. Cruz, undrafted out of UMass, had a whopping 1536 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in the regular season, the former being an all-time Giants record. Cruz also entertained fans all season with his salsa dance after touchdown receptions.

    Cruz also ended off his season with  a touchdown reception, en route to a 21-17 Giants Super Bowl victory against the New England Patriots.

    Sports stories don't get any better than this.

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