Michael Strahan is out of this world, on numerous accounts.
The former New York Giants defensive end is going to outer space in December as an honorary guest on the next flight conducted by Blue Origin, the Jeff Bezos rocket company.
And his jersey is being retired by the Giants during halftime of Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Needless to say, it’s a big month for the Hall of Famer.
Strahan played 15 seasons with the Giants and the team will retire his No. 92 on Sunday against a division opponent. A seven-time Pro Bowl selection, Strahan recorded 141.5 sacks with the Giants, the second-most in franchise history behind Lawrence Taylor. Strahan was also the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2001 when he set the single-season sacks record with 22.5. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
In his post-football career, Strahan has made a life for himself as a co-host on “Good Morning America” and he works as a football analyst on FOX.
Before Strahan was any of those things though, he was, seemingly, like every other young person who gets their big break in New York - shy and quiet. Strahan credits the city of New York for making him the player and man he is today.
“I just think being in New York and being a Giant, you have no choice but either you sink, or you swim,” Strahan said. “You adapt to it or you don’t, and I adapted to, I guess, what was required of me to play here. It did bring out a lot of my personality because it was almost forced out of me. But there is no city like New York City. It’s the best place in the world to have success. It is true, if you do something in New York, you can do anything. My life is a living testament to that. I’m very grateful that I’ve come to this city and just being in New York has kind of brought all of this out of me.”
As the day to retire his number approaches, Strahan reflected on some of his favorite memories as a Giant, such as when Lawrence Taylor walked into the locker room. The first time Phil Simms said “Hello Michael.” The first time he got hit hard in practice and realized he needed to get stronger.
Strahan said that he remembers what he and former Giants linebacker Jessie Armstead used to say to each other before every game. All of the teammates: Keith Hamilton, Jason Sehorn, Eli Manning, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora. Choking Manning after the two won Super Bowl XLII against the Patriots.
That Super Bowl, in which the Giants beat the undefeated Patriots, 17-14, has shaped Strahan’s legacy. Strahan is famously known for walking up and down the sideline during the game saying “17-14. Believe and it will happen.”
“That Super Bowl was the biggest thing – that’s pretty much one of the biggest things to ever to happen to me,” Strahan said. “Winning that Super Bowl, especially in the fashion we did it, against the team that we did it against with that record that they had, definitely put me in a different light to a lot of people – which has led to an incredible life.”
Strahan said that he wonders if he would have kept playing for another season if the Giants had no won it all that year.
“There are so many things along your life that happen that you look back on and you go, ‘Man, I’m glad that it worked out,’” Strahan said. “In that moment, you’re kind of just in it. You’re not thinking about if I do or if I don’t. I’m smart enough to understand playing in New York is special for an athlete.”
Because of his accomplishments with the Giants, Strahan added that he was a little surprised that it took the organization so long to retire his number. It has been 14 years since Strahan was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I would have honestly expected it a long time ago,” Strahan said. “All of the things that I did with the Giants, I would have expected it a little bit sooner, but it’s still an honor. Things come in the time in which they’re meant to come and not at the time in which you want them to come sometimes. That’s the way I’m looking at it. I don’t want it to look as if I’m ungrateful or I’m not honored by it, because I truly am. I probably would’ve expected it to come a little bit sooner than it did.”
Perhaps it was worth the wait though as the Giants are retiring Strahan’s number as they host a team that the former pass rusher played very well against in his career. Strahan recorded 21.5 sacks against Philly, his most against any team. Even if the Eagles fans in the stands are booing, Strahan said that he does not care.
“They could retire my jersey – the Giants could do it in Philly,” Strahan said. “That wouldn’t bother me. I’m used to Eagles fans and it’s very fitting to have it done against the Eagles. But, if there are Eagles fans there booing, that’s what I want them to do because if they’re not booing, that means I wasn’t very good at my job...I always loved playing the Philadelphia Eagles. They were always good for a few sacks a game.”
Though Strahan has been removed from the organization in recent years, he said that he still watches every game and remains a fan of the team and city that he has long called home.
“Do I look at it and think that I could get off my couch sometimes and go play and help the team?” Strahan asked. “Absolutely. But I do think that the team right now, we need to find a way to get back to where we are to be competitive to the point where you’re going to a game and you’re like, ‘okay,’ you know?
“The thing is there are so many games that we’ve lost literally – and I say ‘we’ like I’m still there because once a Giant always a Giant – but there are so many games that were lost on last second or on the penalty or on things like that, that completely changed the season for this team. I just want the team to understand that they are not far off. Don’t wait for somebody to rescue you because no one feels sorry for you in this league when you’re losing. You’ve just got to go to work and rescue yourself. That would be my message to them.”