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Michael Strahan ready to join elite company

Michael Strahan did not begin his Giants career in 1993 expecting one day to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"My goals when I first started were just to make a little money so I didn't have to move back in my parents' house," Strahan said today. "I just didn't want to live with my parents. That was my goal to try to just make my parents proud, make them happy, play hard and just do the best I could do."

He certainly succeeded at that, didn't he? On Aug. 2, Strahan will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio as part of the seven-member Class of 2014. He will be the 20th Hall of Famer who spent all or a significant portion of his career with the Giants (and the second in as many years after former coach Bill Parcells' 2013 induction). That ties the Giants with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the second-highest total among the 32 NFL franchises, behind only Green Bay (21). The Giants' Hall of Fame representatives include Wellington Mara, Mel Hein, Frank Gifford, Harry Carson and Lawrence Taylor.

"It's overwhelming, to be honest with you," Strahan said on a national conference call. "Mr. Mara was there when I was drafted and would come to practice every day. (He was) the face of the NFL and also the Giants and one of the original pioneers of the game, so they've got such a rich history. On top of that, Harry Carson (is) a great friend of mine. as well as L.T. being a great friend and the one guy that I looked up to when I came in. Just so much history on the side of the Giants and the fact that you can see that we all spent our careers in one place just goes to show that it's a family. I'm just honored, because there's nothing I had in my brain, nothing I imagined when I started out, that I would be joining these guys in the Hall of Fame. I'm honored to be doing so."

Strahan will have a large contingent of family, friends and former teammates and coaches in Canton for his big evening. In addition, the current Giants team will be in town to face the Buffalo Bills the following night in the annual Hall of Fame Game.

"(Former Giants coach Jim) Fassel is coming out, which I'm very appreciative of," Strahan said. "(Tom) Coughlin and Eli (Manning) are going to be able to come even though they have the game. I have (Jessie) Armstead, Antonio Pierce, Jeremy Lincoln. I have so many guys, well-known guys and not-so-well-known guys, who are going to come out and support me. That means the world to me because I wouldn't be here without those guys.

"Jessie Armstead was the one guy at the most critical part in my career who got me out of a funk, who was always there. I always knew I had another playmaker on the field with me. He never disappointed on Sunday. I'm just so happy and honored to have him there with me. Antonio Pierce came in and was that Jessie Armstead for me later in my career. Keith Hamilton, Keith is one of a kind and I loved him. I love all of the 11, 12 years we played together. There's nobody like the Hammer. He took a lot of pressure off me and made me a better player as well."

Strahan made the first of his seven Pro Bowls in 1997, his initial season playing for Fassel and defensive line coach Denny Marcin.

"(Fassel) took us to the Super Bowl, we won NFC championships with him and he's always been a good man," Strahan said. "He made the game fun. He was a very influential person in my career. I'm glad to have him there. Denny Marcin was awesome. Denny was a coach who gave us the freedom to just go out there and be a player and not worry about necessarily the X's and O's or say 'You have to do this to do that.' Denny's philosophy was get home, just get there by whatever means, whatever way it takes for you to get there. I think (former defensive coordinator Steve) Spagnuolo is going to try to make it. Mike Nolan (another coordinator Strahan played for), Mike Waufle (one of his line coaches) can't make it, because they're in camp, but I've already gotten messages from them as well as Osi (Umenyiora) and Justin Tuck and all of the other guys who I played with who aren't able to make it because they still have careers in the NFL. Everybody's there for me. I'm there for them and I'm there because of them."

Strahan discussed several other subjects on the conference call:

*On former Philadelphia Eagles tackle Jon Runyan, with whom he had many memorable skirmishes.

"Everyone thinks that Jon Runyan and I hate each other, but Jon's been a great friend," Strahan said. "We weren't friendly at first, obviously, and when we played in the Pro Bowl together I tried to avoid him, because I didn't want to be his friend. His wife brought us together. I'm talking to this sweet lady and she's so nice and she's like, 'Oh, why don't you meet my husband,' and she brings over Jon. At that point, I kind of had to give in. We ended up being good friends.

"We had some great battles and I would thank him because I believe he made me a better player. He gave me somebody twice a year that I knew I had to be on top of my game and he was somebody who was going to compete as hard as I was going to compete. Now it's something I can look back on and be very proud and kind of watch those battles we had and laugh about it. He's a great friend. I did kick his butt more than he kicked mine, no matter what he says. Now we talk about it because we're both too skinny and old to do anything else."

*On Hall of Famers outside the Giants family that he admires.

"Sadly for us, he's not around anymore and I will definitely talk to his bust, is Deacon Jones," Strahan said.

"Deacon was my guy. He took care of me. Deacon had the best stories and the most encouragement throughout my career. Definitely Deacon Jones, definitely Reggie White, definitely Bruce Smith. Definitely guys that played my position and did very well at it. There are so many great players there that I think I'm going to go there and my jaw is going to drop just to see the busts and then to see a lot of these guys in person, because a lot of them I've never met. But now we're family so it's just going to be a very surreal situation but Deacon Jones is definitely the number one guy that I wish was still with us to watch me go in." looks at Michael Strahan's trademark smile through the years.

*On his expectations for the 2014 Giants.

"This year it's really tough because the team has changed so much," he said. "A lot of guys I was familiar with are now gone outside of maybe Eli Manning. Watching Chris Snee retire the other day was tough, because it almost felt like the end of the last era that I was there. But - I don't know what to expect. I think it's so unpredictable and the great thing about the Giants is whenever you don't expect anything is when they end up winning Super Bowls. I hope that's the case for this year."

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