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Extra Points: Strahan embraces life en route to the HOF

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Updated: 8/02 9:53 am

Canton, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - Transition can be a dirty word for a professional athlete.

Over the course of a lifetime, a career, especially in the NFL, is a very short one and once the cheering stops, players often find themselves searching for something to replace the adulation.

Not Michael Strahan, the former New York Giants' star who is set to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame on Saturday night.

"If you want to feel like Superman," Strahan said on Friday, "that is a great way to do it."

If anything Strahan is a bigger star today than he ever was when he was terrorizing quarterbacks throughout his 15-year NFL career. And that's not hyperbole even though the Houston native earned seven Pro Bowl selections and five All-Pro nods with the Giants after being drafted by the club in the second round of the 1993 NFL Draft out of Texas Southern.

"My goal when I first started was just to make a little money so I didn't have to move back to my parents' house," Strahan said. "I didn't want to disappoint my parents. So that was my goal, to kind of just make my parents proud, make them happy, play as hard and just do the best I could do."

Mission accomplished.

Strahan was a dominant NFL pass rusher, amassing an NFL single-season record 22 1/2 sacks in 2001 and finishing with 141 1/2 over his career, fifth all- time behind fellow HOF members Bruce Smith, Reggie White and Chris Doleman as well as Kevin Greene. Strahan, though, was no one-trick pony and was also the rare two-way defensive end, regarded as one of the best edge players defending the run.

"I loved playing the run more than rushing after the quarterback," Strahan told reporters in Canton. "That is a fact. I loved the fact that the other guy was 100 pounds bigger than me and no way I'm supposed to beat him.

"But if I'm strong, I use leverage, if I get off the ball quicker, if I studied him enough to know him better than he knows himself, I can get in the backfield and make a play and get up and look and there is a 350-pound guy on the ground and I'm standing over his guy like, 'Guess what?'"

Strahan also turned it up against the toughest competition, leading a ferocious defense that stunned the previously unbeaten and 12-point favorite New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, and often excelling against players like Jon Runyan, the former star right tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles who is currently the U.S. Representative for New Jersey's 3rd congressional district.

Strahan has often described the nasty Runyan as the toughest player he ever competed against but a quick look at the numbers says Strahan had more sacks against Runyan's Eagles than anyone else (21 1/2).

Despite all of that Strahan remains tremendously self-deprecating, even claiming he's not sure if he could have cracked the starting lineup if he was competing against the defensive ends who replaced him with "Big Blue."

"These guys are so talented, I don't know if I would have started," Strahan said. "If you look at Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul and myself, I'm No. 4 ... I'm No. 4, believe me. Talent-wise and looking at what these guys can do, I'm No. 4 easily."

As good as Tuck and Umenyiora were on the Giants and JPP continues to be, none of those players are on a trajectory toward Canton.

Strahan's post-NFL resume is arguably more impressive. A player who always embraced media attention while active, Strahan himself has become a larger- than-life television personality and pitchman, often playing up his gap- toothed smile.

Football remains a part of his eclectic playlist but it's just a small piece of the Strahan brand. He remains an analyst on Fox NFL Sunday but his far bigger gigs are his spots for Subway, along with his co-hosting gig on the television morning talk show "Live! with Kelly and Michael," alongside Kelly Ripa, a post formerly manned by the legendary Regis Philbin.

Strahan's personality is so gregarious that he was even given the opportunity to star in a FOX sitcom and he was the host of Pros vs. Joes alongside fellow good friend, national NFL writer Jay Glazer, who is scheduled to induct him on Saturday. His "Q rating" is such that his breakup after a five-year engagement to Nicole Murphy was major entertainment news.

In times good or bad, though, the smile remains, so much so that it became a problem for Blair Buswell, the Pro Football Hall of Fame's chief sculptor.

Buswell always recommends that inductees not smile when they are sitting for their busts because "teeth don't look good on bronze busts."

"I presented a unique challenge, because I told him I wanted to smile," Strahan told the New Yorker. "If I close my mouth, people won't know who it is."

Somehow I think they would have figured it out.

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