CANTON, Ohio — Michael Strahan went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame with a smile on his face.
While most of the statues in the Hall of Fame feature tight-lipped tough-guy stares, Strahan insisted that his include his well-known grin and the trademark space between his front teeth. The former Giants defensive end saw his bronze-cast likeness for the first time last night when he became the 287th member of the Hall. Shortly afterward he gave his induction speech wearing his new gold jacket and a tie in the red, white and blue colors of the only NFL team he ever represented.
Strahan’s audience included Giants links past and present. Former coach Jim Fassel and defensive coordinator John Fox were seated on the floor of Fawcett Stadium for the ceremony. Also in attendance were current Giants coach Tom Coughlin along with a contingent of team representatives and officers that included co-owner John Mara and Strahan’s only three remaining teammates — Eli Manning, Zak DeOssie and Mathias Kiwanuka. Jeremiah Davis, the scout who “found” Strahan at Texas Southern, was also among the group as were Jesse Armstead and David Tyree, former teammates who now work for the Giants.
But there were also representatives from Strahan’s second career on hand to honor him for his first. Morning show co-hosts Robin Roberts and Kelly Ripa strained to snap pictures as Strahan walked through the crowd to the stage early in the event. Strahan’s parents sat in the front row of his section of seats, but the area also included stars such as recently retired tight end Tony Gonzalez, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, and singer John Legend.
Strahan said earlier in the weekend that he would not be surprised if tears ran down his gappy grin during his speech.
“I kind of walked through the stadium and pictured standing on the stage with everybody standing in those seats,” he said before the ceremony, “especially with my parents and my kids sitting there and having an opportunity to look at them, and just with the other Hall of Famers there, it might be a little tough.”
Unlike the grin on his bronze bust, it’s hard to find a gap in Strahan’s resume. He is the Giants’ all-time leader in sacks with 141½ and the NFL’s single-season sack leader with 22½ in 2001. He also led the league in sacks with 28½ in 2003. When he retired after the 2007 season he held team records for most seasons played (15), most games (216) and most postseason sacks (9½).
Strahan was a seven-time Pro Bowler and a five-time member of the All-Pro team. In 2001 he not only set the single-season sack record but had seven forced fumbles and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He was a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
“When you’re in the room with these Hall of Famers and when you see your name … I think, did I really do that much?” Strahan said earlier in the Hall of Fame Weekend. “I never really look back. I never did it when I was playing because I didn’t want to get complacent and I don’t do it now because I don’t want to get complacent. And I have a feeling that may be the toughest thing to watch in the introductions when they roll that tape and footage of your career, to actually sit there and go, ‘I did that?’ It’s gonna be weird.”
Besides Strahan, other inductees included linebacker Derrick Brooks, punter Ray Guy, tackles Claude Humphrey and Walter Jones, receiver Andre Reed and safety Aeneas Williams.