After nearly three long hours on Saturday night — all of which were enjoyable in their own right — the time finally came for retired New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan to close the show. It was his moment, and after a tremendous introduction by long-time friend Jay Glazer, which appropriately defined both the career and character of Strahan, ole No. 92 took the stage as "Football Michael" for the very final time. And he did not disappoint.
Strahan's 34-minute speech was impassioned, it was funny, it was emotional and, in the end, it was the culmination of an "improbable" football career. It was the ideal sendoff for a man and player who forever changed not only the New York Giants, but the game of football forever.
"Life is about lessons and my life is improbable," Strahan said. "I am an improbable Hall of Famer. I am an improbable football player.
"Improbability means nothing, because absolutely anything is possible."
The improbable road Strahan alludes to was a winding one, which included torment from his sibling's, who called him "B.O.B." (for "booty on back"), to Jane Fonda Dance Aerobics to the "scariest city" he could ever imagine to Super Bowl XLII and, ultimately, to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But being the consummate professional and high character guy he is, Strahan made sure to carve out a moment from his moment to pay homage to those who helped kick-start his professional career: Wellington Mara, Bob Tisch and George Young.
"The team is a family. It's not about this or that, it's about the team. It's about all of us being one. It's about understanding that we're all in this together," Strahan said. "It made me the best because I realized even after they were no longer with us, they were always watching me."
Strahan continued his speech paying the ultimate respect to head coach Tom Coughlin and several former teammates including Jessie Armstead, Antonio Pierce, Lawrence Taylor, Phil Simms, O.J. Anderson, Keith Hamilton, Amani Toomer, Tiki Barber, Michael Brooks, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and, of course, Eli Manning, who took quite the ribbing courtesy of Strahan. But by the end of the joking, No. 92 thanked Easy E for teaching him something new and for sending him off into the NFL sunset with a Lombardi Trophy.
"And with you Eli, I learned… You don't have to be outwardly excited to be internally combustible to go out there and whip some people on the football field, my friend. And you have done it," Strahan said.
In total, Strahan thanked 40-plus former players, coaches, friends, family and co-workers. He told great tales from "three generations" in the NFL. He thanked the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class and every single Hall of Famer with a gold jacket who came before him. And in his final moments, he thank all of you — the fans — for without you, Strahan said, absolutely none of his "improbable journey" would have been possible.
"There is no football, there is no Hall of Fame, there is nothing without the fans," Strahan said. "I don't care if you're a Giants fans, a Bills fan, a Raiders fan… I don't care what kind of fan you are — you are a football fan, and for that, I say thank you. We appreciate you. We applaud you."
It was the perfect ending to the perfect story and a tremendous career. Congratulations, Michael Strahan. Few deserve it more.
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Tags: Antonio Pierce, Eli Manning, Football, George Young, Jay Glazer, Justin Tuck, Keith Hamilton, Lawrence Taylor, Michael Strahan, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Osi Umenyiora, Tom Coughlin, Wellington Mara