In 2007, Michael Strahan led the New York Giants to a dramatic Superbowl victory over the previously undefeated New England Patriots. Last year, he was inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame.
And even though Strahan was one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL (he still holds the record for most sacks in a season) his career off the football field is anything but scary: Emmy winning co-host of the LIVE Show with Kelly and Michael, co-host on Good Morning America and a football analyst on FOX.
Strahan found the time to share his secrets to success as keynote presenter during the SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual conference this week in Orlando, Florida.
Reflecting on his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction, and what it took to get there, Strahan realized his success was possible thanks to the efforts of many different people that inspired him to overcome adversity.
“My career and life are full of improbable, but not impossible, success stories,” he said.
Re-inventing career opportunities
As a college football player at Texas State University, Strahan said he “didn’t really know anything about football” but had a willingness to learn. His hard work paid off. Four years later, he was drafted by the New York Giants as “another scared kid not knowing what to expect.” Sharing a locker room with Lawrence Taylor, Phil Simms and other New York Giants legends, Strahan felt like a fish out of water.
“It felt just like college all over again,” he said. “Being in the pros, I felt like a nobody again. I had to re-learn, re-invent and re-create this business all over again.”
After 15 years as a New York Giant, Strahan said he finally figured out what the business was.
“Fortunately for me I figured it out at the right time because we went on to win the Superbowl,” he said. “After that, I was able to close out that chapter and hopefully move on to another chapter – TV.”
No one is more surprised by Strahan’s successful TV career than Strahan himself.
“The one thing I had – which was the same thing I had when I was 13 years old – is the desire to get better and learn from a new team,” he said. “So I left the football team and entered the TV studio team of NFL on FOX.”
Just as technology and business continues to change, there’s a time in your life when it feels impossible to change things, according to Strahan.
“But you can do something about that,” he said. “I am proof that you can do something about that. Challenges may seem impossible but they are not improbable.”
For example, Strahan recalled a time when he wanted to retreat back to the familiarity of the football field after co-hosts Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long asked him this question on live TV during his first show: If a plane full of Americans crashes in Canada, where would you bury the survivors?
“Simple answer, right?,” Strahan asked the thousands of chuckling attendees. “On live TV, that is not a simple answer. Then I realized as I looked around me, I was part of a team and even though they gave me a hard time at first, we there to do a job, do it well and do it together.”
From that point forward, Strahan said he applied what he learned on the football field to his job at NFL on FOX. He took note of Bradshaw’s humor, Howie Long’s analytical skills about the game and Jimmy Johnson’s coaching point of view.
“It was like a Master’s Class learning from them every day,” said Strahan. “I worked hard to fit in and find my own rhythm to help make the team successful. Because it’s all about the team.”
And even though transitioning from NFL on FOX to LIVE with Kelly and Michael is a “totally different world”, Strahan said common factors of teamwork, accountability and motivation are critical.
“Whether at NFL on FOX, LIVE With Kelly Michael or GMA, it’s important for me to motivate people in my own way,” he said. “And when you try to motivate people you quickly learn that people motivate differently. Everybody is not the same. That is one of the most valuable lessons I have learned.”
An impossible (but not improbable) Superbowl victory
Recalling his 2007 Superbowl victory, Strahan said the New York Giants were basically a vagabond football team going head to head with a great football team in the undefeated New England Patriots.
“No one was expecting us to win this game of except for my mom,” quipped Strahan. “Looking back on it I know she was lying.”
Turns out, that unbelievable Superbowl victory for the New York Giants had more to do with mental outlook than physical ability.
“In the Superbowl, we went from hoping to win, to expecting win,” said Strahan. “In that game and in my life, that mindset has made all the difference.”