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New York Giants: 5 Best Memories of Hall of Fame Defensive End Michael Strahan

Patricia TrainaContributor IJuly 31, 2014

New York Giants: 5 Best Memories of Hall of Fame Defensive End Michael Strahan

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    John Shearer/Associated Press

    I’ve been a credentialed New York Giants beat writer since 1997, which means I had the pleasure of covering defensive end Michael Strahan for the majority of his pro career.  

    As the Pro Football Hall of Fame prepares to immortalize Strahan this weekend, I have put together my five top memories from his 15-year Giants career.

    Some of these memories you'll recognize; some were from behind the scenes, offering a look at the man behind the facemask. 

    Don't forget to share your personal memories from Strahan's career in the comments section below.

5. The Record-Breaking Sack

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    One of the biggest moments of Michael Strahan’s career also came with the most controversy.

    In the final regular-season game of 2001, Strahan, who was so close to breaking former New York Jets defender Mark Gastineau’s single-season sack record of 22 set in 1984, made NFL history.

    He beat his blocker, Green Bay Packers tight end Bubba Franks around the edge and sacked quarterback Brett Favre for a seven-yard loss with 2:46 left in the game, giving him 22.5 sacks for he season.

    That record-breaking sack, however, immediately stirred the the critics, many of whom suggested that Favre, as friend of Strahan’s, had purposely taken a dive to help the defensive end in his quest for the record.

    Adding fuel to the fire were comments made by Jim Fassel, the Giants head coach at the time, who suggested that it was indeed feasible that Favre took a dive for Strahan. 

    According to a transcript generated by NFL.com, Fassel said the following:

    If players have respect for that person, and he's close to breaking a record—I mean, you know, you've seen it in baseball, a guy's going to have a home-run record, an RBI record, if it doesn't matter to the game they'll put a fastball (down the middle) and let him knock it out of here. So if they have respect for the player, sometimes, 'I'm gonna let you get it.'

    Strahan, who admitted that the single-season sack record was diminished a bit because of the circumstances, fired back at his critics

    I caught so much flak over it. It's not worth it, because everyone looks as if one sack that they question is the defining moment of my career. … I didn't have a sack in the first three weeks of the season. So from four weeks on, 13 games, 22-and-a-half sacks. That's hard to match, and I've never spoken like this about it, because I've always kind of taken it, but I always have to say, if you don't like it, then break it.

    Many have tried to break his record, but other than Houston defensive end J.J. Watt, who in 2012 finished with 20.5 sacks, no one else has really come close.

4. His Press Conferences

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    When it came to the press, Strahan, like every other player, had his love-hate relationships with the media.

    His most famous press conference (for the wrong reasons) happened when he took offense against an ESPN reporter following up on a story in which Strahan had voiced earlier concerns about the effort of receiver Plaxico Burress in a 24-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

    While that wasn’t one of the better moments, there were plenty of times when he was witty, charming and engaging.  

    It was evident that Strahan, who, by the way, had a corner locker in the old Giants Stadium, had a future in television given his easygoing personality.

    He never took himself seriously, he loved to laugh and make jokes and he took the time to get to know the beat reporters by name, often engaging in playful banter.

    In short, Strahan's weekly press conferences were one of the main highlights of the week leading up to games.

3. Battles with Eagles OL Jon Runyan

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Throughout his career, Michael Strahan had many memorable battles against offensive linemen.

    The best, though, was probably against former Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Jon Runyan, who, while valiantly battling the Giants defensive end, had more than his fair share of struggles in keeping him contained every time the two met.

    Runyan, who lined up at right tackle for the Eagles, met Strahan 15 times on the field, yielding 14.5 of Strahan’s career sacks, per Jordan Raanan of NJ.com, who also noted that Strahan recorded 8.0 sacks against Runyan in the first five games the two met.

    To this day, Runyan, now a New Jersey congressman, has so much respect for Strahan that, according to Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer, who will present Strahan for enshrinement into the Hall, Runyan will be a part of the audience witnessing Strahan’s latest moment of glory. 

2. Stomp You Out!

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    The 1985 Chicago Bears had the Super Bowl Shuffle. The 1998 Atlanta Falcons had the Dirty Bird.

    The 2007 Giants, thanks to charismatic defensive team captain Michael Strahan, had Stomp You Out.

    The Stomp, as it was known for short, apparently originated from a pregame speech delivered by Strahan, who urged his teammates to “stomp out” the competition.

    It wasn’t as sophisticated as the Super Bowl Shuffle, and it didn't really catch on like the Dirty Bird.  

    However, the Giants' signature move, which became part of the team’s folklore that season, fit the team's personality perfectly because it was a group of hard-working, blue-collar guys who banded together to become world champions.  

1. Super Bowl XLII: Believe It and It Will Happen

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The New York Giants weren’t supposed to go to Super Bowl XLII.

    So when they ran the table and took on the undefeated New England Patriots on the sport's biggest stage, there weren’t many people outside of the organization who gave them a chance of winning.

    As the game clock ticked down, it looked as though the Giants were going to become a part of history against an undefeated Patriots team.

    Down 14-10 into the fourth quarter, there was Michael Strahan on the Giants sideline, passionately urging members of the offense to believe:

    Seventeen-fouteen is the final, okay? Seventeen-fourteen, fellas. One touchdown and we are world champions. Believe it and it will happen. 

    With 39 seconds left in the game, quarterback Eli Manning, on 1st-and-10 from the Patriots 13, threw a fade to the corner of the end zone which receiver Plaxico Burress caught as Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs trailed.

    That play sealed the Giants' win, ruined the Patriots' quest for an undefeated season and capped an amazing 15-year career by Strahan.

     

    Patricia Traina is the senior editor for Inside Football. All quotes and information obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter, @Patricia_Traina.

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