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Jon Runyan Jr. 'fired up' to be on Michael Strahan's side of rivalry

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Jon Runyan, Jr. was born on Aug. 8, 1997. Three months and a day later, his father faced Michael Strahan in an NFL game for the first time. The three football players have been intertwined ever since.

Runyan, Jr. is one of the seven players the Giants acquired this week as the NFL began its new league year. A free agent signee, he will become one of the team's starting guards.

Though he spent his first four NFL seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Runyan is well-versed in the NFC East's intense rivalries, particularly the one between the Giants and Philadelphia Eagles. His father was a standout offensive tackle who played 14 seasons in the league, beginning with four for the Houston/Tennessee Oilers/Titans and then nine with the Eagles, for whom he never missed a game. His career ended after playing five games with the San Diego Chargers in 2009.

Runyan and Strahan, who played his entire Pro Football Hall of Fame career with the Giants, battled each other in the trenches 14 times, 13 regular-season games (the first when Runyan played for Tennessee in 1997, the others when he was with the Eagles) and once in the 2000 playoffs. In those games, Strahan had 14.0 sacks in the regular season and one in the postseason.

Giants fans are well aware Strahan sacked Brett Favre in the 2001 finale to set the NFL single-season record with 22.5 (since tied). But he would not have reached that milestone without his big game the previous week when he victimized Runyan for 3.5 sacks of Donovan McNabb in Veterans Stadium. (But the Eagles won, 24-21, on a David Akers field goal with seven seconds remaining).

Now Runyan, Jr. steps into the twice-yearly Giants-Eagles skirmishes, wearing the uniform of perhaps his father's fiercest rival.

"Dad played for the Eagles for nine years," Runyan said during a Zoom news conference. "I grew up in South Jersey. I kind of understand the whole NFC East rivalry between all these teams. It's some tough, gritty football.

"Watching my dad and Michael go at it twice a year was always fun watching it go down on Monday night and Sunday Night Football. I'm just happy to be part of it. It's a special part of my childhood, and excited to go forward and implement my own story going forward."

The older Runyan is in the Eagles Hall of Fame. Soon after his playing career ended, he served two terms as a Republican congressman from South Jersey. Since 2016, Runyan has been the NFL's Vice President of Policy and Rules Administration.

When an NFL player is fined, the letter he receives is signed by Runyan. In 2022, one of those players was…Jon Runyan, Jr., who was docked $5,215 for leg-whipping an opponent during the first quarter of a game. The opponent? The Giants, who defeated the Packers in London.

In the letter, the senior Runyan also warned his son that "further offenses will result in an escalation of disciplinary action, up to and including suspension." It was signed, "Sincerely, Jon Runyan."

When the younger Runyan announced this week he was joining the Giants, Strahan tweaked his father on X (formerly Twitter), posting, "I can't wait to see @BIGJDR in a @Giants jersey rooting on his son. Welcome to Big Blue, John Runyan Jr."

No one enjoyed it more than young Runyan.

"It's awesome," he said. "My dad and Michael, even though on the field they were bitter rivals, after the game I remember for years and years every year Michael would always be waiting outside the team bus. He and my dad chatted it up after the games. I would be standing right there.

"Obviously, at the time, I was a big Eagles fan. Always a huge fan of Michael, even though he and my dad had such hard and physical battles throughout the years. But it's really awesome. Kind of feels like it's coming full circle. I remember Michael being generous enough to invite me and my family to his Hall of Fame induction in Canton. That was really special. I know Michael is laughing and feels like he has a leg up on my dad that he was able to pull me to the Giants. It's a really awesome moment, and I'm sure Michael is giving my dad a lot of stuff for that. I'm so fired up to be here and be a Giant and be here in New York."

Strahan didn't just invite Runyan to the ceremony when he received his gold Hall of Fame jacket on Aug. 2, 2014. He movingly spoke of his former foe in his speech.

"Jon, I know you're here, Congressman Runyan," Strahan said. "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 to the Eagles from 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 the next generation of Runyans joins the NFC East. In his four seasons in Green Bay, Runyan's first 22 regular season starts were at left guard, the last 28 at right guard. He has one start at left guard and two at right guard in the postseason.

"If I were to choose, I would say (I'm more comfortable) left, but I feel comfortable on both sides of the ball," Runyan said. "Doesn't really matter. My whole career I've just always wanted to get on the field and stay on the field and play football, and that's what I'm here to do."

Runyan said he has "no hesitation" about joining a team that allowed a franchise record and NFL-high 85 sacks in 2023.

"There is not much I can do to change what's happened in the past," he said. "I'm just focused on going forward and building this team and this unit.

"Daniel Jones, when he's on his feet and healthy, he's a dangerous quarterback and he showed that two years ago. Keeping him on his feet and healthy and (getting the) run game going, that's going to start up front and that's a big responsibility that you have when you decide to play the offensive line position. We're going to take a lot of pride in that. We're going to work hard every day. Just try to get better and do whatever we can to make the Giant team go forward and win the NFC East. That's the goal, and get in the playoffs."

View photos of the newest members of the Giants touring the Quest Diagnostics Training Center for the first time.

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