HOUSTON, TX (KTRK) --Long before he was the Senator from Texas or Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, he was a hometown boy carving a path in life. Those who were there for the journey spoke to Eyewitness News.
Much has been made about Cruz having been born in Canada. Four years later, he and his family moved to Houston and like many young boys, Ted Cruz could be mischievous and playful. At Clay Road Baptist Church, his first church home in Houston, he was sometimes a prankster.
"He would get down and rummage around underneath the seats. In fact I heard he re-arranged women's shoes so they got the wrong shoes one time but I don't know if that was the gospel truth," said Billye Joyce Stanley with a laugh.
Stanley, 83, remembers Cruz and his parents from when they were members at the church. She taught him in Bible school and then at camp when he was older. Cruz, an only child, was nicknamed "Felito" or "Little Raphael" after his father, Raphael Cruz.
At the time, the family's home was in the Champions area of Northwest Harris County. They would make the 12-mile drive to the church.
"He was very smart," added Stanley. "I'm very proud of him. You know, it's humbling to think we taught him as a child."
The 45-year-old husband to Heidi Cruz and father of two girls calls Houston home which sometimes surprises people. He often keeps a low profile, by design, says conservative talk show host and friend of 20 years, Michael Berry.
"He's not a socialite. He's not a guy who's thrilled about seeing and being seen. That's not who he is," explained Berry. "I don't think a lot of Houstonians know...this is the local guy because for so much of his professional career he was the Solicitor General for the State of Texas. He went off to school but there are a lot of us who know him personally and have for a long time."
Cruz attended a private, Christian school in Katy and then transferred to Second Baptist School his junior year in high school.
"He was an ideal student. I couldn't ask for more," said Elsa Jean Looser, his former Advanced Placement English teacher and college preparation counselor. She says Cruz was driven and self-directed.
"You know, I turned to my husband this morning and said, 'you know, I've never had a student who's won the Iowa Caucus.' That was a whole new thing," Looser said with a smile.
The retired teacher showed Eyewitness News the classroom where she taught Cruz and the seat in the back corner where he sat. That was 28 years ago. The two still keep in touch.
Last week, a video from his high school days surfaced. He jokes about 'world domination.'
His classmates didn't think a run for president was that ludicrous. One wrote about Cruz "as president" in his junior yearbook.
"None of this surprise me," Looser said.
During his time at Second Baptist, he was a star debater, active in the drama club and on the speech team. Looser helped him prepare his application for Princeton and says his faith has always been front and center.
"He gets criticized for supposedly being an evangelical but this is nothing new for him," Looser said. She plans to "just keep watching" especially heading into the New Hampshire Primary.
"It's exciting," he added.