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Teammates and opponents talk Strahan

Posted Jan 31, 2014

Michael Strahan's former coaches, teammates and opponents react to the Hall of Fame announcement

Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin:

“From the time that he retired, I always felt that he would be simply waiting for the mandatory time requirement before he became a Hall of Famer. That’s what I always thought he would be and rightfully so. He takes his place along with the great, great defensive players of the game and the great Giants of the game who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

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“Michael Strahan has a magnetic personality and because of the quality of football player that he was, and because of the way in which he worked, he naturally led by his words and by his example. He is a guy that practiced full-speed, ran to the ball, and took great pride in that. He took great pride in talking to the people in his room about running to the football, about playing the game with great effort. He was a physically strong player who played the run as well as the pass effectively. He has all kinds of statistics and numbers in the sack area, but he played the run equally as well.

“Michael was a highly, highly competitive individual who was the captain of our 2007 Super Bowl team. He was a strong and integral part of our leadership council that year and he did an excellent job with our young players and also our veteran players. He’s a leader in every sense of the word. He was a leader in the classroom, a leader on the field and off the field. He asked great questions. He was inquisitive, but he backed it up by being an excellent example of the way in which a guy should study, practice and play the game.

“Michael was always in excellent physical condition. He was very strong. He was fast. He could run. He could run in his 15th year. We had three defensive ends that rotated. At first, he wasn’t real keen on that, but then he began to understand and equate longevity and long-term ability to perform at a very high level to this rotational concept that we developed once we got here.

“Michael did play 15 years, but one of the things that I’ve always believed is he probably could’ve played another three, to be honest with you. He was that kind of an athlete. He worked hard in the offseason. He was a very physical football player.

“I sent him a text when I first learned of the nomination and I said, ‘There are a lot of great things in this life that are taking place for you right now and you deserve it.’ The other thing you have to remember about Michael Strahan is he has an effervescent personality, he’s loquacious, he’s the kind of individual that’s very entertaining. But he can be very serious. He can ask very serious questions. When I first got here, he wanted to challenge me on everything. Thank goodness we won him over. He saw things for what we intended them to be and for what they really are; the way in which we operate. He’s made statements to the effect that the mental part of what we try to accomplish with our players is much, much more than anyone he’d ever had the opportunity to be with.

“When I think of Michael I think of the combination of athletic skills, endurance, strength, the ability to play the game at a very high level for a very long time, plus he’s intelligent and he provided a player that young people could look at for how they study and prepare, how they practiced full-speed and then how they played the game. He was a very rare captain and player in this day and age. Because of his stature in this league, he could go to a player and tell that player that he could do it better or he was not performing at a level that he needed to perform at for our team to be successful. I think that’s a rare thing today because players don’t like to do that to each other.

“I don’t think there’s any question that he helped in the development of Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck. Here’s the other thing, Michael Strahan could dish it out. He was as good as they come at busting chops, but he could take it, too. He had to take it because that was their way of getting even with him. The other players in the room, if they had him for anything, or if he said something which was out of bounds, whatever he did, they no doubt were going to jump his butt. But he was good about it. He was very good about it.”

Giants General Manager Jerry Reese:

“It’s hard to find guys with everything, but this guy had everything…size, speed, power, toughness, endurance, motor, smarts, leadership, heart, love for the game, but what I admired most about Michael was his pride. No matter what the circumstances were, when he walked out on that field on Sunday, he was going to give it ALL to you. There aren’t many guys who can say that.”

Giants President John Mara:

“I’m thrilled for Michael. He was one of the greatest players in franchise history. Without him, there’s no way we would have won Super Bowl XLII. Not only was he a huge part of that team because of his play on the field, he was the leader of that defense. The other players looked up to him. He established a mark for consistency during his outstanding 15-year career. Very few people played the position as well as he did, particularly because he played the run as well as being a great pass-rusher. He was a leader and a great player and I’m delighted that he is going to his rightful place in Canton.

“I’m not sure what more an individual can accomplish in his career. He was a great all-around player – not only a pass rusher, but he was great against the run. And I think if you ask any coach that ever coached against him, they would tell you that he was as complete a defensive lineman as they ever saw in the NFL.

“The greatest thing about him was the leadership he provided and the example he set for the younger players, because nobody worked as hard as he did. I think our younger players saw that and it was inspiration for them.

“For me, though, the defining moment for him was in Super Bowl XLII, just the way he was so confident. He played a great game, and then him standing on the sideline before our final drive trying to pump up our offense, telling them, ‘The final score will be 17-14. You’ve got to believe it.’ That’s just the way he was around our team. His value to us was much greater than just his performance on the field.

Even today, Tom will bring him around to talk to our players, talk to our defensive linemen because he’s just so positive and people do have so much respect for him.

Giants Chairman Steve Tisch:

“It’s appropriate that Michael has been elected to the Hall of Fame. He has earned the right to be in the Hall. He was a Hall of Fame player. The years he gave the Giants were fantastic for the Giants and for him personally. He’s more than a great football player, as evidenced by the work he’s now doing and his popularity. People really like Michael Strahan. He’s charismatic, he’s smart, he’s funny, he’s charming.

"I think the Hall is a better place now that Michael Strahan is going to be there.

"I’m thrilled personally for him. As a co-owner of the Giants, I couldn’t be happier that he’s going into the Hall of Fame. It’s great for Michael. He deserves it.

"One of my greatest Strahan memories is with about 45 seconds left on the clock in Super Bowl XLII. Michael was running up and down the sideline encouraging the players, saying 'This is ours, pay attention, stay focused – there are 45 more seconds and this is our game to win.' He was a cheerleader, he was the leader. His spirit, his confidence, his leadership qualities in those 45 seconds really epitomized and characterized who this man is.”

Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, Strahan’s teammate from 2005-2007:

“Michael is one of the best defensive players to ever play this game. When I look at elite players, the one thing I think about is, did they make people around them better? I’m living proof that Michael did that. Guys like Stray, he definitely made guys around him better. We definitely wouldn’t have been the teams we were without his leadership and his ability to go out here and make plays when we needed them.”

Former Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb, who was Strahan’s most frequent sack victim (12.5 in the regular season, 2.0 in the postseason):

“When playing against (Michael), I remember our game plans during the week always started with him. The focus had to be on him and we had to find a way to stop him in order for us to be successful. I realize he sacked me more than any other quarterback he ever faced, but what was special about Michael was his leadership. People would probably think he was a real vocal leader, but the best leaders do it by example. Michael put in the hard work, and on each and every play, he was a force. The other guys on the line watched him on the field and followed his lead. That’s why the defensive line was so great. He led by example and guys like (Osi) Umenyiora, (Justin) Tuck and (Mathias) Kiwanuka were successful because they followed Michael’s lead. He was always happy to see his guys on the line make the plays. It was never just about him. That’s what made Michael and the Giants’ defensive line so feared and so successful.”

Former safety Sam Garnes, Strahan’s teammate from 1997-2001 and now assistant secondary coach of the Denver Broncos:

“First of all, he’s a great man. He was a leader. He and Jessie Armstead were two great leaders that we had. Stray definitely led by example and when it was time for him to say something, he said it and it meant something and kind of traveled through the team. He was just a great player, one of those defensive ends that would not only pass rush but could stop the run. You don’t see too many of those, from my time playing, that could do both. He was just as good at stopping the run as he was getting after the quarterback and we know he has a sack record. He was very good.

“I lined up behind him and we kind of traveled together. When I was on the strong side and Strahan was the strong defensive end, he did the things that allowed me to play and allowed me to be able to be productive. He was so great against the run, he’s not somebody who’s just going to run up the field He was smart, he studied, so he knew when it was going to be a run or pass play and he was effective.”

Former center Shaun O’Hara, Strahan’s teammate from 2004-2007:

“Michael never took days off, with the exception of the training camp that he held out of in his last year. I always really appreciated how hard he worked, not only when he was on the practice field but he came right off the practice field and he always did a little extra. He always went in the weight room, did a little extra. The strength coach never had to chase him around to get him to work out or to get him to do any extra. It was just something that he did and I thought he always set a great example. I thought that he always set a great example for the young players. You don’t rest on your laurels. He was at the end of his career at that point and he was still trying to find a way to get in there, still trying to sharpen that blade, if you will.

“Michael was one of those guys who were a presence on the field. You know that in practice and even during the game that he held everybody accountable. I think that’s a quality that not a lot of NFL players have and not a lot of NFL players are comfortable doing, holding their teammates accountable for everything they do, both on and off the field. I always thought that was one of the best qualities and attributes that he brought to the team. Everybody kind of gravitated to him because of that. He knew that he couldn’t yell at somebody for not doing their job if I’m not going above and beyond. He knew that he had to walk the walk if he was going to talk the talk. I thought Michael’s ability to hold everybody accountable both for what they did on the field and for how they were in the locker room, he did a great job with that. He was kind of like the big brother but he wasn’t scared to call you out.

“I think Michael is underrated as an all-around player. The sacks, those are the big stats. They’re like touchdown passes for quarterbacks and that’s what everybody looks at. But he did all of that from the left defensive end, where you usually have a tight end on that side chipping, there is a lot more blocking help. And he never came off the field on first and second down. He played the run just as well, if not better, than the pass and that was always one of the things that I think he took a lot of pride in, stopping the run. He wasn’t just going to be one-dimensional and I think when you look at how many sacks he got, it makes you kind of wonder how many more sacks he would have had if they had flipped him over to the other side and let him rush from the open end as opposed to the strength of the formation.

“Michael was one of those guys that even while I was playing I was saying to myself, ‘He’s a Hall of Famer. One day I’ll watch him get inducted into the Hall of Fame.’ And you know what? I’m really proud to say that I got a chance to play with a Hall of Famer, that I got a chance to play with Michael.

“I texted Stray last year when he didn’t get into the Hall of Fame and I said, ‘Don’t worry, it’ll be better and even sweeter for you to get in next year with it in New York and the game on FOX.’ And I said, ‘Plus, it gives the Hall of Fame an extra year to perfect that gap in your teeth for the bust.’”

John Fox, who was the Giants’ defensive coordinator from 1997-2001 and is now the Denver Broncos’ head coach:

“I believe Michael does deserve it. I believe he deserved it a year ago. That’s my personal opinion. But the actuality is, he was a great leader. He won a Super Bowl. I think he exemplified what our league is about in a very positive light, both on and off the field. And so I think he’s the perfect candidate, and I know if I had a vote, he’d have mine.

“My smile might have been bigger when he won his first Super Bowl than his was. He deserves it (induction into the Hall). He’s an outstanding individual, as well as a football player. He was a great leader the five years I was there. I think he’s tremendous.”

Former wide receiver Amani Toomer, Strahan’s teammate from 1996-2007:

“There were times he’d just take over the game. I remember the game we played down in Philadelphia (in 1999). At the end of the game he (intercepted a pass and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown in overtime). We won the game and it was like, ‘Oh, Strahan took over the game.’ When you have a guy like that you always have a little bit of hope. There’s never a situation that I can remember where he got locked out an entire game and didn’t make an impact either against the run or against the pass. He just was a guy who always showed up. He worked the hardest of most players on our team. He took those guys in, the defensive linemen, and told them what kind of shape they needed to get in to play. You’d see him running on the treadmill with young defensive linemen during training camp, doing sprints. Those were the types of things that I think separated him from some of the other players I played with, because not only was he a great player, but he extended the role and made everybody else better.”

On Strahan saying after New England took a late 14-10 lead in Super Bowl XLII that the final score would be 17-14:

“I remember him saying that, ‘It’s going to be 17-14, 17-14’ to everybody. To me, it meant a lot because I remember being on the team when the defense hated the offense and the offense hated the defense. And that to me was a situation where everything kind of came together. He was just like, ‘They just scored, but you guys are still going to win the game.’ It was a symbolic moment in my mind about the difference between the teams I played on earlier and this one.”

Former cornerback Sam Madison, Strahan’s teammate in 2006-2007:

“He really deserves it. And not only for the things he’s done on the field. Look at all the things he’s done off the field. It’s just amazing the work that he’s put in.

“He pretty much helped everybody. He’s one of those guys who could lead you in the right direction. That’s the type of teammate that you really want because once you go out on the football field you’re really going to give 110%. He’s definitely a leader beyond belief. He’s definitely a hard worker who motivated everybody else around him, and definitely a tremendous athlete. You know, if you let him tell it, he’s going to say he’s not a defensive end, he’s an athlete.”

Asked if Strahan’s presence on the field boosted his teammates’ confidence, Madison said, “Yeah, he’s definitely going to make an impact and he’s going to allow other people to be successful as well because he’s going to demand the double-team. And if he doesn’t get the double-team, he’s going to disrupt the whole entire offense of the other team.

“It was really fun to watch his preparation, even at an older age. I’m an older guy coming in and seeing the work he’s still putting in and the effort he’s really trying to display for the younger guys, it was something that you just picked up on. It was contagious.”

Former Giants General Manager Ernie Accorsi:

“He’s a Hall of Famer player. And I said this when he played: I’m sure there are others, but I have never seen an elite pass rusher that played the run as well as he did. Because it doesn’t happen. Now believe me, I understand the strategy that a lot of it was to negate his pass rush. But I know that (Vince) Lombardi used to run at Deacon Jones. You just didn’t run at Michael Strahan. That wasn’t going to do you any good at all. You might slow down his pass rush, but he was going to make the play. I’ve never seen someone who was that good against the run, and he wasn’t that big. He played with leverage and technique and his brains. He had talent, don’t get me wrong, but he was such a smart player.

“I remember George Young told me years and years ago, ‘If you’re going to talk about somebody at the level of a Hall of Famer, he’s got to beat the double-team, because the great players are double-teamed and if they don’t beat the double-team, they’re negated. Strahan could beat the double-team.

“I’ve always thought ‘You don’t fool players. They know.’ You’ve got to back it up. I thought he was a natural leader, plus he was smart. He was a great leader.”

Former defensive tackle Keith Hamilton, Strahan’s teammate from 1993-2003:

“There’s no doubt in my mind that Michael is a Hall of Famer. He played the run and the pass and did it day in and day out. Michael always prepared well, he was a diligent worker, he always came to play and he actually got stronger as the game went on.

“I know our offensive coaches would sometimes say (about a defender), ‘We’re running right at that guy.’ With Michael, I would try to run anywhere besides right at him. This was a guy that played the run and the pass. And anybody that played against him knew that.”