I was fortunate enough to sit down for a few minutes with former All-Pro defensive end and future Hall of Famer Michael Strahan last weekend while covering the Palisades High homecoming football game. Strahan visited the team to give them an inspirational pre-game speech prior to their game against Hamilton High. The best moment came when Strahan pulled out his Super Bowl ring and passed it around the room. Now an analyst for Fox Sports’ NFL pre-game show and still one of the game’s most recognizable faces, Strahan reflected back on his stellar career, which spanned 15 seasons with the New York Giants and was capped by one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history. Like legends John Elway and Jerome Bettis before him, Strahan was able to ride off into the sunset the way most players only dream of.
DA: Do you still think about Super Bowl XLII every day?
MS: I don’t think about it every day. At some point in your career if you play long enough – I played 14 years without winning one, went and lost one to the Baltimore Ravens – you start to say to yourself, ‘I had a great career, it doesn’t matter’. But when you win it, you’re like, ‘Oh, forget that, it matters. This is great! This is phenomenal!’ So I am so appreciative of winning a ring and of all the guys that helped me get to that point and just help me be able to end my career like that. You definitely don’t do it by yourself. A lot of great players never won a ring, you can go through a lot of Hall of Famers. And then a lot of great players that I played with that never had a chance to win a ring, which makes me look back and go, ‘Why was I the one who was so fortunate to last long enough to win one with the Giants?’
DA: How much sweeter was winning a ring after having had so much personal success without having had the ultimate team success?
MS: I learned early on, I would go to Pro Bowls and do this and that, but when the guys who would win the Super Bowl would show up, you just sit there like, ‘Man, that’s the ultimate’. It’s not just about getting here and playing in an all-star game. There’s no fulfillment. So to win the ring gave me the ultimate fulfillment. When you look at it you go, everything happens for a reason.
DA: Looking back, do you think you were simply more motivated by not having won the big one? And how driven were you by some of the tough playoff losses you had prior to winning a championship?
MS: Would I have continued to play 15 years? I don’t know. I mean, I think I would’ve quit a lot of earlier, but I think it was in my cards that I just had to keep going. [The San Francisco playoff meltdown loss in 2002] bugs me more than anything. There are certain games that bug me more than anything. And you definitely think about the losses. You think about the things that you should’ve done that you didn’t. There’s still plays in the Super Bowl that we won where I’m going, ‘Why didn’t I do that?’ It still bugs me to this day.”