Former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan is going to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Strahan, a second round draft pick (40th overall) in 1993 who retired after 15 NFL seasons with New York, was voted in on his second year of eligibility by a selection committee consisting of senior members of the Pro Football Writers of America.
He’ll join punter Ray Guy (Raiders), safety Aeneas Williams (Cardinals), tackle Walter Jones (Seahawks), linebacker Derrick Brooks (Bucs), receiver Andre Reed (Bills), and Claude Humphrey (Eagles) as part of the Class of 2014 who will be immortalized in Canton in August, a game in which the Giants are reportedly going to be one of the two participating teams.
“I’m thrilled for Michael. He was one of the greatest players in franchise history. Without him, there’s no way we would have won Super Bowl XLII,” said Giants President John Mara.
“Not only was he a huge part of that team because of his play on the field, he was the leader of that defense. Very few people played the position as well as he did, particularly because he played the run as well as being a great pass-rusher. He was a leader and a great player and I’m delighted that he is going to his rightful place in Canton.”
“It’s hard to find guys with everything, but this guy had everything…size, speed, power, toughness, endurance, motor, smarts, leadership, heart, love for the game, but what I admired most about Michael was his pride,” said general manager Jerry Reese.
Strahan, who played his college ball at Texas Southern, set the school record for sacks with 41.5. As a pro, he became the Giants franchise record holder with 141.5 sacks.
A seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end, Strahan switched to his left defensive end spot in 1996 due to injuries along the defensive line at the time. That season, he was voted to his first Pro Bowl berth and he earned first-team All Pro honors.
“He just was a guy who always showed up. He worked the hardest of most players on our team,” said former Giants receiver Amani Toomer. “He took those guys in, the defensive linemen, and told them what kind of shape they needed to get in to play. You’d see him running on the treadmill with young defensive linemen during training camp, doing sprints. Those were the types of things that I think separated him from some of the other players I played with, because not only was he a great player, but he extended the role and made everybody else better.”
A dominating force against the run, Strahan set a new single-season record for sacks in 2001 when he sacked Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre to record his 22.5 sack, a mark that still stands today. Strahan, who also led the NFL that year with seven forced fumbles, went on to earn the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year.
“I’m sure there are others, but I have never seen an elite pass rusher that played the run as well as he did, because it doesn’t happen,” said former general manager Ernie Accorsi. “You just didn’t run at Michael Strahan. That wasn’t going to do you any good at all. You might slow down his pass rush, but he was going to make the play.”
Two seasons later, his 18.5 sacks were good enough for Strahan to once again finish as the league leader. He would go on to record double-digit sack totals in six of his first nine seasons.
Named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s, Strahan’s final game was in Super Bowl XLII, when the Giants topped the New England Patriots 17-14, ruining their quest for a perfect season.
In that game, Strahan had two tackles, one assist, one sack, and one pass defensed.
“Michael is one of the best defensive players to ever play this game,” said Justin Tuck, who succeeded Strahan at left defensive end.
“When I look at elite players, the one thing I think about is, did they make people around them better? I’m living proof that Michael did that. Guys like Stray, he definitely made guys around him better. We definitely wouldn’t have been the teams we were without his leadership and his ability to go out here and make plays when we needed them.”
Strahan, who was present at Radio City Music Hall for the Hall of Fame announcement, was unable to stick around to speak to the media due to a prior commitment.