Robert Moreschi

Strahan Will Be Enshrined In Canton But Is Forever A Giant

Jul 31, 2014 5:00 AM EST

In his 15 years in the league, Michael Strahan accomplished nearly everything a defensive end can hope to accomplish in the NFL: Super Bowl champion, seven-time Pro Bowler, four-time First Team All-Pro, all-time single-season sack record, all-time Giants’ career sack leader and, now, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He also managed to leave the game in a way that many others before him (and after him) have dreamed of leaving: at the top.

However, it almost didn’t happen.

On November 5, 2006, Strahan suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury in a win over the Houston Texans, and it was rumored that he would retire prior to the 2007 season after he failed to report to training camp the following July and missed the entire preseason. But Strahan felt as if he still had one more season left in the tank.

One month later, Strahan sacked Donovan McNabb in a 16-3 Sunday night win over the Eagles (one of the Giants’ 12 sacks that night) to give him the Giants’ all-time sack record. Twelve months after that, he would emerge from a giant inflatable Lombardi Trophy at the Giants’ 2008 season-opener holding a much smaller, sterling silver version of that same trophy.

For most Giants fans, this will be the enduring image of Michael Strahan’s New York career that will be forever ingrained in their collective psyches, far better than what it might have been, had he not returned for that final 2007 season. Instead, we might have looked back on one January afternoon in early 2002 as the pinnacle of Strahan’s achievements.

Instead of the image of Strahan flashing his famous gap-toothed smile beneath a “SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS” locker room cap, we might instead be treated to endless loops of Brett Favre half-heartedly trying to escape Strahan’s record-breaking sack in the final game of the 2001 season.

Sure, both Strahan and Favre received their fair share of criticism for the sack that would break Mark Gastineau’s single-season record and officially cemented Strahan as one of the league’s most-feared defensive ends.

Strahan has always had a flair for the dramatic. One of my earliest memories of his game-changing athleticism happened on Halloween during an otherwise disappointing 1999 season. Already dressed in our costumes, my brother (a life-long Eagles fan) and I refused to begin trick-or-treating until the game was over. Tied 17-17 in overtime, Strahan picked off a Doug Pederson pass and returned it 44 yards for the game-winning touchdown, stunning the Veterans Stadium crowd.

Strahan’s flair for the dramatic — and his one-of-a-kind personality — have made him a star well beyond the football field. As a staple of the Fox NFL Sunday panel since 2008, Strahan has displayed the vibrant sense of humor that endeared him to the New York media and Giants fans for the past two decades, as well as his extensive knowledge of the game of football.

Throughout his career, both on and off the field, Strahan has always been a consummate professional. He served as an excellent mentor for the Giants’ defensive stalwarts who would follow in his footsteps — players like Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck — and although he was already gone by the time Jason Pierre-Paul arrived in 2010, he blazed a distinct path, one that JPP has followed closely at times in his young career.

The New York Giants defense has a long and celebrated history. Strahan had the torch passed down to him from the greats that preyed on quarterbacks before him: guys like Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, George Martin, Andy Robustelli, Sam Huff and Carl Banks. He helped usher in a new era of Giants defensive domination and kept the torch burning for those that came after him.

For 15 years and counting, Strahan has been the very definition of what it means to be a New York Giant. Since the day he was drafted back in 1993, he has worn Giants blue, and his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame will ensure him a permanent spot not only in Giants history but in NFL history as well.