Michael Strahan Enshrinement speech
Pro Football Hall of Fame Field
August 2, 2014
Hey. Well, you know, I've got to say, I don't think any of us knew what to expect this weekend, but this has been the best weekend of my life. Thank you. Thank you. I know that all the Hall of Famers, they've been keeping timers on everybody, and they're like, it's really getting late, past our bedtime. I'm a morning guy. It's past mine too. But I promise I'm going to get you out of here, instead of considering the 2014 class, they'll consider it the 2015 class because we've been up here a long time. But we're going to get out of here. I got to thank the Hall of Fame. I got to thank the trustees. I've got to thank my classmates. I mean, Derrick, Walter, Aeneas, Claude, Ray, just absolutely amazing. I'm honored to be in this class where you guys epitomize class, and I think this is right where I belong. I'm so happy to be here with you guys.
To my friend, Jay Glazer, who I've known for 21 years. You know me better than anybody. You've treated me better than anybody at times and worse than anybody at times. And that's why I love you and that's why you're here, because you know the way I played the game. You know why I played the game, and there is nobody better here to present me than you. So I love you, and thank you Mr. Glazer.
I know my life now is like teleprompters and scripts and all that stuff. I just wrote some things. This is from the heart. This is not TV Michael. This is football Michael. This is what you saw on that screen. Life is about lessons. My life is improbable. I am an absolutely improbable Hall of Famer. I am an improbable football player because I didn't grow up saying, I'm going to do this.
You know, you've certain moments in your life that change your life. I'm going to go to when I was 13 years old. I'm the youngest of six. I've got my sister Sandra here, my sister Debra, my brothers Gene, Sr., Junoir, my brother Chris, my brother Victor. I'm the youngest of six. I'm the one that gets beat up. I'm the one that gets abused. I was 13 years old, and I'm going to say I was a husky kid. I called it big boned. I was big boned. I was husky, big boned, and they made fun of me. Bob, right? You know about Bob, right? Well everybody here doesn't know about Bob, but I'm going to talk about Bob, because it still hurts me to talk about it, but I'll talk about it because you know it. My brothers call me Bob, and Bob meant "Booty on Back." They said, you know, everybody gets their wallet like that, you just grab yours like that. So I was a husky kid.
But at 13 years old I realized this, for the first time this is when I can take something and I can own it. I can change the course of action in my life if there is something I don't like, I can change it. So as every 13 year old kid in Mannheim, Germany does or every 13 year old kid who wants to get in shape, I went out and got some Jane Fonda tapes. Oh, I ain't lying, Marcus Allen. I got Jane Fonda tapes, and I was high kicking and side kicking. I was doing it all.
Then I graduated. I graduated to the Herschel Walker workout book, push ups and sit ups. My dad saw this. And my father Dad, I don't even know what to say about you, because he's the most amazing, amazing man. Retired major for the U.S. Army, 82nd airborne division master paratrooper, and more so than any of that, one hell of a father because, Dad my dad saw me doing that. My dad said, “You know what? Let's work out.” He start working out with me. We'd go to the gym. We'd do everything. He would read his magazines and he would come up with these programs. He didn't know anything about it. He was a boxer. He didn't know about the weightlifting part, but muscle and fitness, whatever it was that he took these programs out I can't read one to this day because of that.
I remember being in the gym, and I didn't want to be there. And my dad looked at me and said, “Son, one day it will pay off.” And, dad, I got to say it paid off. It really did. Even when he said that I didn't know what he meant, because I was trying to work off Bob. I wasn't trying to be a football player. I'm in Germany. It's the last thing. It's improbable that I am going to be a football player of any type. And my dad would take me to the gym and beat me down. Take me to the woods and make me run every morning in the summer 5:30 I'm running in the woods when other kids are sleeping.
Then I'd come home to the sweetest mama that you could ever ask for, Louise Strahan. Mama, you know your baby love you. I love every time, even at 42 years old I come home and you cook my favorite cookies and my favorite cake and every meal that I love. There is nothing like a mother's love, and I'm not ashamed to say that I'm a mama's boy.
So, all these years I was out with my dad. Bob has slimmed up. I'm feeling good about myself. My dad said, “You know what? You're going to Houston. You're going to play football. You're going to stay with your uncle Arthur. He played seven years in the NFL. You're going to get a scholarship.” I was naive. Okay. I'll hop on a plane, go to Houston, stay with my uncle Arthur who was 7 years in the NFL.
Uncle Ray used to take me in the front yard and beat me down to try to teach me the game of football. I had no idea what I was doing. But the improbable happened.
I got a scholarship to Texas Southern University. Now at TSU, I played under Coach Walter Highsmith, Coach J.W. Harper, Coach Conway Hayman, and Coach C.L. Whittington, and I'm not going to go too deep into all these things right now, but I just want to say it was perfect for me. I didn't get swallowed up. I had coaches who cared about me and who loved me.
The thing that I learned the most about Texas Southern is I had to grow up. I could be a mama's boy, but I had to be a mama's boy when I'm at home with my mama, and they taught me that. They taught me at the perfect moment because I ended up going to the scariest city that I could ever imagine, New York City. And I went there because the improbable happened again. I get drafted by the New York freaking Giants. Yeah, baby. The football Giants.
And not only, not only by the Giants, but I get drafted by Wellington Mara, okay? The Duke. Now, for all of you young kids who may not know about Wellington Mara, whenever you get a football, a real serious NFL football, you look on it, and it says The Duke. That man drafted me. Bob Tisch, the Tisch family, and the great and late George Young, those are the guys who brought me and trusted me enough to bring me to the Giants. With the Tisch family, Mr. Tisch, as a rookie I hurt my foot. I'm doing the sack dance against Cincinnati and hurt my foot. Yeah, I'm finally admitting it. I never admit it. I always said I hurt it on the play. But it was during the sack dance. Get it out. Every day to go from the field to the Field House, or the Field House to the field for practice, and I was on crutches. It was a long way. After about two weeks of this, a car pulls up. Door opens and guy tells me to get in, Bob Tisch.
And every day until I was off those crutches he drove me to and from practice. I was a rookie who had done nothing for this man's team, and that developed a friendship with him that lasted until he passed away. So in the spirit of that, his kids, John Mara and Steve Tisch have continued in that spirit of realizing that the team is a family. It's not about this or that. It's about a team. It's about all of us being one. It's about all of us understanding that we're all in this together. There is no ownership. It's all on one level.
It made me the best because I realized even after they were no longer with us, they were always watching me. I want to say to the Tisch family and the Mirra family, and John and Steve, all those times you told me how proud your fathers were of me, how proud they would be of me, how much they loved me, it didn't go in one ear and out the other. It meant the world to me, and I am so honored to represent the G man family up here today.
Now, I was crazy enough to play 15 years and fortunate enough to play 15 years. Over those 15 years I played over, I feel like three generations of players. The first generation, Ernie Accorsi, George Young, Dan Reeves, Mike Nolan, and Earl Leggett. Dan Reeves, the head coach, Mike Nolan was the defensive coordinator, Earl Leggett was my defensive line coach. Earl Leggett was the kind of coach you had, but you wish you had. He would work you so much if you had him, that you wish you were gone so you could say, I had him. He worked you. He said, I'm going to test your bloodline. I'm going to test what your mama's made of, your grandmama, your great grandmama, your pappy, and everybody else that's going to come after you, son, and he did it.
But he also did that to the great Howie Long. So I had a role model. I had somebody I looked at and said that's who I can be. Earl taught you in football there are no finesse players at least where I came from. I watch the tape and I'm running into guys, and I was not a big guy. But one thing that Earl put inside of me and into my head from the beginning, in football, son, you can be finesse all you want, but eventually, you're going to have to hit somebody. For that, I'll never forget, and that's the way I lived my entire career. So I want to thank Earl.
I want to thank his wife, Bobbi, for letting us have Earl at the time we had him when he was here with us. Earl, rest in peace. I know you are proud and I know you are looking down on me right now.
Phil Simms is in the locker room. I'm like, man, I started when I was six years old. They still here? But I learned something. Life lessons, I learned lessons in a lot of ways. Phil Simms I learned. First one in, last one to leave. Nothing's easy. You've got to work for it. O.J. Anderson, I learned. O.J. Anderson and Michael Brooks, I know he's at home and struggling with health issues.
Michael, you helped me more than I could ever repay you, my friend. You took me under your wing with O.J. Anderson as a rookie, it showed no matter what year you are in the league, you're a great player. You play against them and you make your own judgment. From the first lessons I was told by these guys, I thank them for taking me under their wings. Then there was LT. My man to the left. When I was a rookie, I was scared of you. Now I'm retired and I'm up here with you with this yellow jacket, I'm still scared of you.
But one thing I can say about Lawrence Taylor is everyone knows he's a great football player, and everyone knows he's a great athlete because he watched the games. But if you watched the practices, you'd understand why. Take a scout team play, running 100 miles per hour every single play he's on that field, that's how I learned how a real pro practices. That's what I learned from you, Lawrence. But I also learned that it's okay to sleep in meetings sometimes. Even though you did it all the time. Thank you. There you go.
Then I had the next generation. I had my coach, Jim Fassel. I know you're here. I had my defensive coordinators, John Fox. John Fox, I know you're here, my man. You changed up your entire schedule with the Denver Broncos to be here for me tonight, and I'll never forget it. I appreciate you, thank you. Then I had Denny Marshall, my defensive line coach who is here somewhere as well.
One thing I learned under these guys, you can be tough. You can run through these guys and be physical, but you can have fun doing it. And fun we had. We had a lot of fun. In this era, this is where I felt like it became my team. This is the guy, LT had retired. All these guys that I came with and learned under had retired. It became my team. It was my team with Amani Toomer, Tiki Barber, Gary Jones, Robert Harris, Jason Sehorn, and we went to the Super Bowl. This was a Super Bowl team. Had the one and only Keith Hamilton, Hammer.
And last but not least, we had my man, the one guy that came in with me in my draft class, Mr. Jesse Armstead. Jesse and I used to stand in the tunnel before every game and there you go, J. I see you on that big screen, man. Thank you for being here for me. And Jesse would stand in the tunnel with a me and we'd look at each other and we'd say, "You and me," because we knew we had to be the leaders out there for this team. A lot of guys have to go into games and do that alone. All I've got to say is I never had to because I had Jesse Armstead by me, so, Jesse, I appreciate you, thank you.
Then we move on to the last generation. In this generation, I'm the old guy. In football terms, I was old. But I've got to say these are the guys that brought me the Super Bowl these are the guys that brought me the Super Bowl right here.
It was the generation of head coach Tom Coughlin who is here. There you go. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, and my defensive line coach, Mike Brothel. And I think it's no secret that Tom Coughlin and I did not see eye to eye when he came to New York, but we finally realized we both had the same goal, and that was to win. It wasn't about ego. I want to say he taught me so many things about responsibility, accountability, how to be a better teammate, even though I thought I was a good teammate, but how to be a man, about how to be five minutes early to a meeting when the meeting starts at 8. Just tell me 7:55; don't tell me it starts at 8:00. That one I still don't get. I ain't going to lie to you. But you made me a better man, Coach Coughlin. You gave me a lesson that transcends anything, that I'll carry with me well past my football career, and carry with me every day that I go forward now. I love you and I thank you. Thank you for trusting me to be a leader on your football team.
I have to throw out some offensive guys out there. Sean O'Hara, Brandon Jacob, Derrick Ward, David Diehl, Chris Snee, Plaxico Burris, David Tyree and his helmet. Yes, his helmet. And last but not least, Eli Manning. My man, Eli. Look at him. He don't get excited for nothing. He's cracking a smile. That is the most I've seen in about ten years. Now I used to go in the locker room before every game, and I would go and tap and touch, and high five, and pep talk every player, equipment guy, Coach. The reason I did it because each time I touch each guy I'm accountable to you. What I put out on that field today is not for me, it's for you. You will never be disappointed in me. That's why I did it. I would give guys the pep talk. You got to run big today, baby. You got to bring it, yeah. Then I'd see Eli just sitting in his locker just like he's sitting over there in that seat. Yep. There you go. Whew.
I used to sit there and say, how am I going to reach this boy? How am I going to reach this boy? And I realized I didn't have to. He was already reached. So when I went to Eli, instead of all of that I would go yeah to I'd shake his hand and smile and say have fun, young man. Have fun. And with you Eli, I learned. You don't have to be outwardly excited to be internally combustible to go out there and whip some people on the football field, my friend, and you have done it. You are the perfect demeanor for New York City, I will tell you that.
Now when it came to the defensive side of the ball, we had a few guys that Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Fred Robbins, David Tollefson, Kiwi (Mathias Kiwanuka), my ace, Antonio Pierce who is here right now, AP, and who would have thought that the last game that I played was going to be with these guys, and it was going to be to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. The last game I was out there as a New York Giant. Before we had the opportunity to do that, it was improbable that was going to happen. It was improbable.
I'm getting ready for the game. During the week we're getting ready, and everybody's excited and I'm telling the guys calm down. I've been in the Super Bowl and we lost, okay? Just relax. Have a good time. Enjoy yourself, but stay focused. Well, the guys take it a little too much to heart. They're having too good of a time. But I couldn't tell them to pull it back because I told them to have a good time. So I'm nervous. We get into breakfast and morning of the Super Bowl. I put some eggs on my plate. And Osi comes up to me and he goes, Michael, if we don't get to Tom Brady today, we ain't going to win this game. And I looked at him and said, what you learn how to read the paper? That's what tell me something I didn't know. He said, then he looked at me again as I went to get some he grabbed me.
He said, no, if we don't get to Tom Brady today, we're not going to win this game. Now, well, again, it was improbable. It was improbable. We couldn't beat an 18 0 team. We barely made it to the playoffs. It was improbable, but it was not impossible. So, not only did we win, we stomped them out. So, life is about improbability. I want to thank a lot of my teammates I didn't get a chance to name and a lot of coaches and a lot of the trainers and doctors and everybody because it is truly something that is a team sport.
I'm so glad that I was able to be they were able to be part of my football life and my football journey. And I hope it was great for them for me to be a part of theirs. Because anybody who thinks we’re up here because of ourselves, we're fooling ourselves. This is about a family. This is about teammates, this is about everybody pitching in to make you better, and for you hopefully to make them better. There are a lot of friends out there I've learned from. A lot of times you get up here and you thank your teammates and that's all you learn from it. That's not the truth. I've learned from a lot of guys up here. I was a late bloomer as a football player. I didn't play in high school. I played one year in high school. I was a late bloomer.
So I had to watch and learn from guys. There is one legend here with us right now who I learned so much from, and that is Howie Long. And Howie, I've got to tell you, I've watched some film of you from Earl that if you put you and every D line man up here on stage and bent over I could look at your butt and say, that's Howie Long, because I've seen it so much, man. I learned so much from you, Howie, and I'm indebted to you, looking at you every week and think of you as my brother. The other brother who was here and I met as a rookie and he took me under his wing, and I wish he was still here with us is the one and only, the original sack master, Mr. Deacon Jones, I've got to say, Deacon, I love you, my friend. I love you, thank you. And there are so many guys that are up here that I want to acknowledge because I am not me without you. I looked at your style and I took from you. I had to learn from being visual. The late Reggie White was someone I had to learn from. John Randle. John Randle. I read a story about you in the grocery store doing pass rush moves on shopping carts. I would do that.
Chris Doleman, stole from you. Bruce Smith, Bruce you made me ride a StairMaster until I couldn't ride them anymore. And Bruce, I learned, man. As I got older, lose weight, prolong your career. You taught me so much. I loved watching each and every one of you guys, and I am a mixture of all of you.
So as I stand up here, it's not Michael Strahan. It's you guys. You guys are right here. You guys are me, and I truly am you. So I am indebted to you guys, and thank you.
You've got to thank some of your opponents that make you better. I'm going to be honest. There are two guys that made me better. One was the meanest guy I've ever played against in my life. I don't think the guy even liked his mama. And that was Erik Williams of the Dallas Cowboys. And Erik, I hope you're watching because he taught me this. We're in a game. We're losing. I'm mad, and I can't wait for the next game against Erik Williams and the Cowboys. Actually, I could because I was a little scared of him, but I was just upset. So I was saying, Erik, when we get back next game, I'm going to do this. I'm going to do that. I'm going to do this. He calmly looked me in the face and he said, you know what? Sometimes you just got to learn to take a butt whooping like a man. And I learned. I didn't want to take many more butt whippings so I better get better. So Erik, I thank you for that.
The other, may surprise a lot of people, is Jon Runyan, Philadelphia Eagles. And Jon, I know you're here, Congressman Runyan. I know you flew in to support me. There you go, big guy. Why don't you stand up so they can see you. 6'9", 350 pounds of twisted steel and non sex appeal.
Jon, you made me a student of the game. I'm going to talk directly to you when you went from the Eagles to Tennessee, it made me mad. I felt like they brought you to stop me. And it really, really bothered me. You made me learn to be a student to study my opponent. To learn my opponent better than they knew themselves. Even though everybody thinks that I had so many battles against you and I was winning and everything well, I was but you won quite a bit of battles, man.
You were the toughest guy that I've ever had to face on a consistent basis, and you made me a much better football player. After watching these films and you don't play anymore, your right foot gave away everything you were going to do. But I love you Jon Runyan.
Now, it's so funny. Now a lot of people who are probably here watching this show and probably here in person, a lot of them, especially the younger generation probably don't even realize I actually played football. I don't look at it as a slight, I look at it as a compliment. I think it actually complements the game of football because it just goes to show what football can do for you. What football can do for anybody, and for what the game of football has done for me, I am eternally grateful to this game. I am eternally grateful to this game. As I say, it's all so improbable.
I've got to say some thanks out there. It's hard not to throw thanks out to my FOX family, Howie, Jimmy (Johnson), Curt (Menefee), Jay Glazer, and the guys at FOX. To my ABC family, I want to thank them for coming out to support me. My TV wife, Kelly Ripa, thank you, baby. Everybody has been like where's Kelly? Where's Kelly? Well, there she is, people. She's here. And to the one and only Robin Roberts. Robin, thank you for coming out here to support me. I appreciate you. I love you.
Over the years, since I moved to New York, my family was in Germany when I was in New York, so I didn't have a lot of my parents weren't there. I had to meet new friends who all had become my family. So really quickly I want to say my friend Gene Wolfson, without you, my friend, I don't know where I'd be. So I've got to say Gene Wolfson, my friend Ian Smith, his brother Dana, thank you, guys. The Hockfelders, Kenneth and Maria, the Sanders family, Harvey, you've been so good to me. The Randles, the Coopers, the Ravens, my girl, Tracy Perlman. Of course my fat smack family is Jose and especially Constance Schwartz who is my sister and my partner in crime, and who keeps me on the straight and narrow.
Constance, I love you. You are like everything to me, and I always I'm your brother. I'm your brother from another mother. I don't need that page anymore. I'm done with it.
I've got to thank my agent, Tony Agnone for doing right by me. I appreciate you, Tony.
Last but -- mostly -- we're very fortunate to play this game and very fortunate to be up here in front of you. But there is no football, there is no Hall of Fame, there is nothing without the fans. Nothing without you. We have nothing. Got to realize that. I don't care if you're a Giants fan, a Bills fan, a Raiders fan, I don't care what kind of fan you are, you're a football fan, and for that I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say thank you. We appreciate you. We applaud you.
In closing this up, I want to say the most important motivation for me throughout my career and even now in my life has never been tackles, accolades never been notoriety, never been money or Super Bowls or anything like that, it's these four people. And I want them to stand up. My daughter, Tanita, my son Michael, Jr., and my twins, Isabella and Sophia, my babies, my beautiful babies.
Now I want you -- and I hope, and this has always been my hope for my kids because I love them more than anything, is that I showed you and that you learned the improbability means nothing, because anything is absolutely possible. Anything is possible. Of all the titles that I have from everything. You could name it. The most important title I'm most proud of is Michael Strahan, your father, plain and simple.
In closing, I want to thank these guys up here with me. I want to thank you all for being here. For all of your patience. I'm so glad that I am a representative of the 2014 NFL Hall of Fame. Thank you, and good night.