To know Michael Strahan is to love him. The former New York Giant’s star turn as co-host of Live! with Kelly and Michael has made him a household name for millions who never watched football. He’s now taking his talents to Friday Night Football on FOX, but that doesn’t mean he won’t make time for the troops in his new role as a spokesperson for Operation Finally Home. Strahan, a veteran himself, joined FOX Sports to talk about traveling with Operation Finally Home and his commitment to bringing the most deserving veterans home for good.
Strahan: “Michael Strahan” is the perfect name for someone who does the things I do. I had to earn that respect from my peers, from my coaches, from my teammates. I had to earn that respect because I wasn’t given it just because of a name or anything like that. I think Michael Strahan is exactly where I want to be in life. It’s a great name and so is Michael Strahan.
FOX SPORTS: It seems like you have always been willing to reach out and help other people. How did your initial introduction to Operation Finally Home come about?
MS: My brother was in the military and I was a young kid, whether it was going to Chuck E. Cheese or something, they had these games where you got to mail in, you win tickets and you get medals. And then I received my first Operation Finally Home medal which is a purple ribbon around it. And then I saw them again after my brother died. And that touched me so much because he passed away on March 9th of 2002 and they had had such an impact on him and his family.
FOX SPORTS: Do you consider yourself someone who makes a difference?
MS: You know I started with the NFL, my first job out of college was with the New England Patriots. And they were doing some inner-city players and stuff too. So I just had a strong social conscience and always said, hey, some kids need help and they are in need. And I love to help people, so it all kind of fits into one.
FOX SPORTS: Is there anything that you would do differently if you ever had the chance to go back in time?
MS: I think if I could go back in time, the thing I would change is to take better care of my body so that when I was older and retired I don’t have injuries. And who knows if any of those injuries affected me even now in my post-playing career because right now I am dealing with a knee injury and at the age of 48 going forward this is something that will always be with me.
FOX SPORTS: Tell us about your new job with the FOX Sports family.
MS: I am excited about that. It was a great opportunity for me and it’s funny because what happened was, I had to go in for my physical for the Hall of Fame [induction]. They said, ‘Do you have any medical issues?’ And of course, you are not going to say yes and maybe my knee issue triggered it a little bit. But I said, ‘Well I have no medical issues, but would you like for me to go to a TEGNA [FOX] station that’s close by?’ And it just so happened that the station was under contract with them. So they said, ‘Yeah sure Michael could come in and have a look at some of our properties.’
FOX SPORTS: What do you think about the changes in network television since you first started in the NFL?
MS: It is amazing how things change. I remember when they first started everything was black and white and then HD came along. And now we get 5 million HDTVs out there and kids are used to it. It’s funny because my son showed me his phone and said, ‘Hey dad look at this.’ There was a message that came in but the message was in rainbow colors. And I said, And he said, ‘I think it’s pretty cool.’ I am like, oh my God!
FOX SPORTS: Do you have a favorite football team now that you aren’t playing anymore?
MS: You know what I am an American so I love all 32 teams! When they give out the schedule it is always the first thing that I do. We live in the residence here in New York and we have the NFL Sunday Ticket, so I can see the games. [Laughs] So I am a fan of all 32 teams.
FOX SPORTS: You have always been very committed to the military. Tell us about your new role as a spokesperson for Operation Finally Home?
MS: It is just a great honor because I am doing things that my brother would be proud of me for. The things that they are doing now are amazing and they are helping veterans who served our country but they come back with issues that don’t fit into a job description or anything. And now they are helping to get them back on track and find a job. And it is just a great honor because I know my brother would be very pleased that I can do that.
FOX SPORTS: Are there any specific veterans who have greatly impacted your life?
MS: You know, there are so many guys we come across in my career that have had an impact on me, and for me, it’s about making a difference. It’s about paying it forward. And if I can help in any way, then I think that is what you should do.
FOX SPORTS: What advice would you give to young athletes about giving back after their professional playing days?
MS: Don’t just talk about it, do it. If you have something to give back, help somebody. And if there are times when you have your own family and you could stay home and cook dinner for them, go ahead and do that. And if there is anything else I can say… Keep your head up and when adversity comes along go with it. You can’t run from it because adversity will come at the best of times and at the worst of times. So live your life to the best of your ability because that is what God has given us.