EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It has been a while since Michael Strahan retired in 2008 after winning Super Bowl XLII with the New York Giants. Thirteen-plus years actually.
“Oh man, it feels weird to say over a decade,” Strahan said this week. “It has been a long time.”
Strahan has been in the Pro Football Hall of Fame since 2014. Admittedly, it has taken longer than he expected for his No. 92 to be retired by the Giants. But it will happen at halftime Sunday at MetLife Stadium when the Giants host the NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles (1 p.m. ET, Fox).
Strahan’s number will never be worn again by a Giants player because of what he accomplished on the field. Not that it was in circulation anyway.
“I know he had a 22[.5]-sack year, which is a record,” Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams said of what he knows about Strahan. “I know he had number 92, because when I first got here, I wanted to get 92 and I couldn’t get it.”
The retiring of the number will be nice. But a lot of what Strahan seems to cherish from his career all these years later are the off-the-field moments. He mentioned being in awe the first time he watched linebacker Lawrence Taylor walk into the locker room. And of quarterback Phil Simms with that initial, “Hello, Michael.”
“I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s Phil Simms saying my name,'” Strahan said.
Playing in Super Bowl XXXV during the 2000 season was special, even if the Giants eventually lost 34-7 to the Baltimore Ravens. So were the conversations before every game with former Giants linebacker Jessie Armstead and the camaraderie he had with the defensive line (Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and others) later in his career.
“It’s an accumulation of so many things that have happened over 15 years; some of them small, but still impactful and memorable,” Strahan said. “A lot of them are failures that really motivated me to try to be successful. Kind of a little bit of the good, the bad and the ugly but it all accumulates to, I guess, a good feeling at the end.”
Strahan produced several big moments during his 15 seasons, all spent with New York. Here are five of his most memorable games:
Oct. 17, 1993 vs. Eagles: Strahan was a second-round pick out of Texas Southern who was inactive the first five games of his NFL career because of a foot injury. But his first career sack came against the team he would terrorize the most throughout his career — the Eagles — in a 21-10 New York win. Starting quarterback Randall Cunningham was out with an injury, and Strahan’s first sack came after he spun off a block and dragged down Ken O’Brien. It was the first of 141.5 — a small note at the very bottom of the New York Times story from that game.
Oct. 14, 2001 vs. St. Louis Rams: This was arguably the most dominant Strahan game during the best season of his career. On his way to being named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, he had four sacks of quarterback Kurt Warner, helping limit the Rams’ Greatest Show on Turf to an uncharacteristic 15 points.
“Too much Strahan,” said Warner, who was knocked out for a play at one point, after the game. “Way too much Strahan.”
It was an incredible performance, even though the Giants lost 15-14.
Jan. 6, 2002 vs. Green Bay Packers: This is the day Strahan broke Mark Gastineau’s record for sacks in a season with a controversial sack of Brett Favre in Week 17 during a 34-25 win by the visiting Packers. It was the culmination of an incredible accomplishment and season that, at the time, was somewhat marred by the questionable takedown as Favre rolled out to his right toward Strahan and fell down. It doesn’t take away from the fact that Strahan was a machine that year, recording at least part of a sack in 13 of the last 14 games. He finished with 22.5 sacks — a record that has yet to be broken nearly two decades later.
Sept. 30, 2007 vs. Eagles: It was almost fitting that Strahan broke the Giants’ career sacks record previously held by Taylor (132.5) against two of the players he dominated most during his career — Eagles right tackle Jon Runyan and quarterback Donovan McNabb. Strahan came around the edge, twisted McNabb down by the hip and celebrated with a pump of the fist and leg kick. All with Taylor in the house taking in New York’s 16-3 win.
Feb. 3, 2008 vs. New England Patriots: New York’s Super Bowl XLII win was the final game of Strahan’s career. On Wednesday, the four-time first-team All-Pro wondered if that would have been the case had the Giants not pulled the 17-14 upset of the undefeated Patriots on this memorable afternoon in 2008.
Strahan didn’t go out as a shell of his former self at the end of his career, piggybacking his teammates for a ring. Oh, no. He added a sack of Tom Brady to his résumé, the icing on the cake for a legendary Giants career.
“Winning a Super Bowl — that adds so much,” Strahan said. “Especially winning the Super Bowl in New York and having the parade and just everything that surrounds being in this city. Being in New York, my life is definitely different if I didn’t win that Super Bowl.”
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