MIAMI – Michael Strahan hasn't played football in 12 years, but he's never stopped running.
Since ending his 15-season career with the Giants following their Super Bowl XLII victory against New England, Strahan has been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and become one of the most visible and popular figures in entertainment. He is a football analyst on Fox NFL Sunday and co-host of ABC's Good Morning America and its spinoff Strahan, Sara and Keke. Strahan co-hosted the syndicated daytime talk show Live! with Kelly and Michael with Kelly Ripa from 2012 to 2016, for which he won two Daytime Emmy Awards.
On Sunday, FOX will televise Super Bowl LIV Sunday, when the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs play for the Lombardi Trophy. Because of Strahan's GMA commitments, he could not attend FOX's media availability today in Miami Beach. But he discussed numerous subjects in a phone conversation with Giants.com.
Although millions of fans recognize him for his ubiquitous presence on television, Strahan remains at heart both a football player and, most of all, a Giant. He attended Eli Manning's retirement news conference on Friday and reveled in the opportunity to laugh and visit with former teammates like Rich Seubert, Plaxico Burress, and Zak DeOssie.
"It feels like you're at home, it truly feels like you're at home," Strahan said. "It feels like you never left the locker room, still joking, still talking about the things we were talking about then. That's a great thing about football. You don't really have to grow up. That's what I always loved about being in the locker room, being around the guys. That's how it is to see all of them there, because I didn't know who was going to be there. I was surprised of all the guys who showed up. It's a testament to Eli. But it's like being back around your best friends, your family. No matter what I have going on in my life and all the things that have come after it, that's still the most comfortable place on the planet for me, is there with those guys."
Strahan also visited with Manning, whom he expects to one day join him in another venue.
"I think Eli is a Hall of Famer," said Strahan, who was inducted in 2014. "The retirement was great to see the guys, all the guys who showed up who he's impacted in one way or another. He's just a good guy. He's everything you would want in a teammate, everything I think you would want in a son, a father and a friend. To be there for him was definitely a necessity personally for me, because I know my life is a lot different if he was not in it. I'm just happy that he was my quarterback and my friend."
Strahan famously voiced his confidence in Manning on the sideline before the Giants' final offensive series in Super Bowl XLII. Trailing by four points, Strahan stood in front of the offensive line and delivered a loud and succinct pep talk/prediction: "17-14 is the final, okay? 17-14. One more touchdown and we are world champions. Believe it, and it will happen."
Why was Strahan so confident Manning would deliver?
"Because he's Eli," Strahan said. "He's never stressed. You see so many guys in crunch time situations, they just get overwhelmed by the energy and the moment, and that's just not him. He's never been that guy to get overwhelmed by the energy or the moment. He's a guy who always just seemed to be under the same pace no matter what, and that's what you need in crunch time moments. I think that's why the success of the two Super Bowls that he was in and the two Super Bowls that he won, he threw some incredible passes, made some incredible plays, because the game wasn't bigger than him. A lot of guys are great players, but in pressure situations, they can't get it done because they let the game become bigger than who they are. He never let that happen."
View photos of Hall of Famer Michael Strahan through the years.
Strahan believes Steve Spagnuolo has similar attributes. The Chiefs' defensive coordinator, Spagnuolo was in his first season in that position with the Giants in 2007, which was Strahan's final season – and the year the Giants pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history. Spags has returned to the title game for the first time since then.
"I think it's fantastic," Strahan said. "I couldn't be happier because I don't think there's a nicer guy who gets the most out of guys than Spags. Here was a guy, we were giving up 80 points in two games (the first two that year), and we get into defensive meetings and you're so used to getting yelled at. That was the form of communication when things aren't going exactly as planned. But he came into that meeting and said, 'Hey, I just wanted you guys to know, I love each and every one of you. I wouldn't trade or get rid of any of you. You guys are the best guys for what we need to do. I trust you and I want you all here. Just believe in the system and it's going to work.' Just letting us know that he believed in us, trusted us, and that we were exactly what he wanted, turned the corner for us. The opposite approach of what I think any of us ever expected. It just showed me how special he was as a man and also as a coach. One of the nicest guys I've ever been around."
Spagnuolo's staff includes two more coaches close to Strahan - defensive backs coach David Merritt, who spent 14 years as a Giants assistant, and former cornerback Sam Madison, completing his first season as the cornerbacks coach.
"They all hit me up," Strahan said. "I talked to them all this week. I plan on going to practice on Wednesday. They're giving me a chance to see them, just hang out with them a little bit, watch them do their work. I don't want to get in the way. Then from there, hopefully they have a good game."
Three more quick hits from Strahan:
*On the election to the Hall of Fame two weeks ago of George Young, the general manager who drafted him for the Giants in 1993:
"Fantastic," Strahan said. "I thought George, and not just because he drafted me, but just what he did with the Giants over those Super Bowl winning years as the general manager, I thought he was just the backbone for the organization and just so strong and steady. I was very happy to see him get in. I know it's been a while and he's not here with us anymore, but it's still a great honor for him and his family."
*His thoughts on Super Bowl XLIV:
"It should be a good game," Strahan said. "I have no idea who's going to win this game, because it's like a great offense and a great defense. I tend to lean toward defense more than anything else. But the Chiefs are so explosive offensively. I'm really confused, because I don't think we've seen exactly what San Francisco's offense can potentially do. We've got some flashes of it when they've had some big games here and there, but for the most part, we haven't seen (Jimmy) Garappolo do a lot of things that most quarterbacks have done. He threw eight balls last week. How do you judge what that offense can do when you have a guy who doesn't have to throw the ball to win because the running game is so good? This game is a toss-up right now. I have to pay a little more attention when I get to Miami. Go to the practices and see what they look like."
*On where winning a Super Bowl ranks among his life's achievements:
"Oh my God, that's the number one thing ever," he said. "Winning a Super Bowl, the hardest thing I've ever done? Sports, football? Yeah, absolutely. I'm not sore after winning an Emmy. I'm grateful, but I'm not sore."