Michael Strahan wasn’t nervous to go to space. He wasn’t antsy about playing in the most-watched event of the year. He’s not overwhelmed by being live in front of millions each morning. But receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? Now that’s scary.
“I’m so nervous about this — of all the things in the world,” he says about the star he will receive on Jan. 23. “It’s beyond even my comprehension, knowing where I started and what this all signifies for me, it’s overwhelming.”
Where he started is a bit different than most NFL players; he didn’t begin playing football until his senior year of high school. One season was enough to get him a scholarship to Texas Southern University. He graduated in 1993 and headed to the NFL, signing with the New York Giants, the team he remained with for his entire 15-year career.
“It made me feel as if being a football player was the beginning and the end of a career. It was the opportunity to create a life,” he says. “I never thought I’d be doing what I’m doing now but I always felt like after football there would be a little bit more. I didn’t know it’d be this much more — this is a lot more than I ever anticipated.”
The Giants won Super Bowl XLII in 2008, beating the previously undefeated New England Patriots. The 17-14 win marked Strahan’s final game, as he announced his retirement in June of that year, leaving as the NFL’s single-season sack leader. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
Strahan has worn many hats (and helmets) over the years.
After retiring from the NFL, he joined the “Fox NFL Sunday” pregame show. Two years later, he filled in as a guest host on “Live! With Regis and Kelly” when Regis Philbin was out. After 20 guest appearances, he joined the show full time in 2012 and stayed for four years. In 2016, he left to join “Good Morning America” where he is now. Still, he remains humble.
“I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do, what I would be good at or what my skill set actually worked for,” he says.
After his first time filling in for Philbin, his business partner and the co-founder of SMAC Entertainment, Constance Schwartz-Morini, called him.
“She said, ‘This is what you’re going to do, what you’re meant to do,’” he recalls.
She remembers the same: “One of the ‘Live’ producers saying to us, ‘Buckle up, if you do this right, you’re going to take off like a rocket ship.’ I would say he did a pretty good job considering he literally ended up in a rocket ship.”
But we’ll get to that.
At “Good Morning America,” he’s surrounded by support. “The bosses there say, ‘This is where we feel like you can really excel.’ I just couldn’t see it for myself, so I’m glad that I’ve always been around people who had a vision for me to achieve more than I imagined that I could achieve,” he says. “In the game of football, that was my dad. In the TV world, it’s my business partner Constance, my Fox family and my ABC family, who all push me further than I would push myself.”
Strahan’s “talents are on full display each morning as a thoughtful and enthusiastic ‘co-captain’ of our broadcast alongside Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos,” says Simone Swink, “GMA” executive producer. “From venturing out with scientists tracking polar bears in Canada as part of our climate crisis coverage to interviewing Fyre Festival’s Billy McFarland in his first television interview since prison, Michael is a natural storyteller and versatile journalist.”
Becoming a journalist — just like becoming a defensive end on the Giants — it all came down to teamwork for Strahan.
“I think I’m a product of just being around the right people at the right time and who have the right intentions,” he says. “If you put yourself around that type of environment, it just gives you a bigger opportunity — not saying you’re always going to be successful, but it gives you a better opportunity to be successful.”
Schwartz-Morini has been one of those people for Strahan for more than a decade. They met when he was playing for the Giants, and she was working in the marketing department for the NFL.
“Michael and I did a lot of events together and he quickly became my go-to. Michael had a special spark even back then — he was always willing to do whatever was asked of him, whether it was a feature on the ‘NFL Country’ and ‘NFL Jams’ CD series or helping to dust off the ‘NFL Lineman Challenge,’ a made-for-TV skills event show featuring the league’s premier linemen,” she says. “Michael’s work ethic was always second to none.”
An example of that was while working on the “NFL Lineman Challenge,” he wanted to help further: “Always wanting to learn, Michael asked if he could sit in on the overnight edit, which is not something players normally want to be a part of. He wanted to learn the other side of the business.”
When Schwartz-Morini left the NFL in 2001, she remained friends with Strahan as she became a talent manager. When he left the league seven years later, she offered to manage him. “I vividly remember his response being, ‘You manage Snoop Dogg, and I’m not anywhere as big as Snoop.’ I replied, ‘You’re not now, but you will be,’” she recalls. “That’s how our business relationship began, a year as his manager.”
Within 12 years, they’d begin official working side by side. Launching SMAC Entertainment in 2011, the talent management, business incubation and production company now has 17 clients. But it’s taken years to get to that point.
“When the company started, it was more talent management — mostly retired athletes who are in the media business — and a production company. It managed a lot of the things that I was doing for myself at the time,” he says. “From there, it just kind of morphed into something a lot bigger than what we intended and we’re really grateful for that.”
Now, the staff is much bigger and the businesses represented have evolved. In addition to working with major talent, including Nikki and Brie Bella, Troy Aikman, Deion Sanders and Tony Gonzalez, SMAC also represents clients’ clothing companies, skincare businesses (including Strahan’s own line) and in Snoop Dogg’s case, a pet apparel line.
“We’ve become a business incubator and started being able to conceive an idea and take it to execution. It’s something that we’ve been very proud of. We don’t have to go out of our company to get things like that done,” he says.
The production side has also “exceeded a lot of our expectations,” says Strahan. SMAC produces “$100,000 Pyramid,” which Strahan has hosted since 2016, as well as HBO’s upcoming “BS High” documentary and the “American Football” podcast for Audible, among others.
“It was a real surprise how much I love business,” says Strahan. “And I think those are the things that I can continue to do when no one wants to see my face on TV.”
One of SMAC’s latest ventures is “Blue Origins Space Rangers,” an upcoming animated space adventure series it is producing with Genius Brands and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. Strahan, who completed his 10-minute flight to space aboard Blue Origin NS-19 in 2021, will appear.
Strahan wasn’t always a space fanatic. He enjoyed watching spaceships take off on TV as a kid — especially in the middle of the school day when teachers would stop lessons to let the students watch — but it wasn’t until he went to the first launch of the Blue Origin with Bezos and his brother, Mark, that he became enamored.
“It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen in my life,” he says. “It was like an Iron Man! I felt like I was watching Robert Downey Jr.”
Afterward, he interviewed Mark and Jeff and knew instantly he wanted to be a part of it.
“It completely changed my mind, because I’m a risk averse person. I’ve got a good life. I’m not trying to lose it,” he says. “I got invited to dinner in New York a month or two later and I talked to Mark and Jeff about it. I was just thinking, I would never do that because I’m not trying go crazy in my life. But after watching what they did and seeing the happiness … the euphoric look, I will actually do it. A few days later, I got a call and was asked to do it. It was the most amazing non-sports related thing I’ve ever done in my life. It completely changes your perspective. I just want other people to experience that. So, if keeping up with Jeff and coming up with a program that can make kids or make people more interested in that experience, I’m all for it.”
Strahan lives and works with two mottos in mind: “Hustle like you’re broke” and “When, not if.” Both are extremely necessary for the amount of work he does.
“That is the core mindset to our success,” says Schwartz-Morini of the company’s mottos. “Whether on camera or off, he always gives his all. We share a common goal in life to make those around
On a normal week, he’s up at 5 a.m. and in the “Good Morning America” makeup chair by 6. When he’s not on the broadcast, he’s keeping up with the news, always in the know. Directly after Friday’s show, he flies to California for his one day off. On Saturdays, he works on his golf game with his friends — when asked what he’d like to still achieve, he notes, “have a lower handicap” — and preps for Sunday, foorball game day. When that comes, he arrives at the Los Angeles studio for his longest day of the week, sometimes up to 11 or 12 hours beginning at 5 in the morning. Right after the show, he catches a flight to New York to start over.
In 2022, the schedule was a bit crazier than usual, as he did a “GMA” segment in Manitoba, Canada, followed directly by a “Fox NFL Sunday” live show at the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.
“I spent the week up there with the polar bears, flew back to New York on Thursday or Friday. A few hours later, I caught a 14-hour flight to Qatar. I was there for less than 24 hours filming. and then got on another 14-hour flight back to New York,” he says, before joking, “If I couldn’t sleep on planes, I would have given this all up years ago.”
In all seriousness, Strahan wouldn’t do any of this if he didn’t really love it.
“I don’t complain about it because I actually have fun doing it. I really, really do. I never thought that the news would be something I would want to do, but it keeps me so informed. I’m so interested in everything,” he says. “I’m watching stuff and I’m reading things that I never would have liked to read before. ‘GMA’ gives me a full well-rounded interest in the world. ‘Fox NFL Sunday’ keeps me tied into my knucklehead football friends. We laugh so much every weekend and it’s just like hanging out with the boys.”
It may feel like a day of fun for Strahan but he’s also “a huge part of the success” of the show, says executive producer Bill Richards. “For a show whose main objective is to inform and entertain the widest variety of NFL fans, Michael’s ability to connect with so many different types of viewers is a tremendous asset.”
For Strahan, keeping busy means being disciplined. He admits that, due to his schedule, he has to say no to many opportunities — but knows it’s worth it.
“I just have to be able to say no, and understand that something may seem fun, may seem cool, but it would hurt my work performance. So, I have to just turn a lot of things down,” he says. “I don’t miss it because I kind of got it out of my system when I was younger, so that’s a good thing!”
Through it all, one thing stays constant. Strahan is grounded. He has a huge audience and a fanbase spanning multiple decades. But at the end of the day, he’s still ending each day by calling his mom to say goodnight.
Although work has always been such a major part of his life, it’s the memories with his family — including his four children and his late father — that he looks back at with the biggest smile. In fact, one of his fondest memories of winning the Super Bowl in 2008 is captured in a photograph of his dad, who died two years ago, that’s now in his man cave.
“He’s got the biggest smile on his face. He was in the stands and my friend took the picture when we won before they came down on the field,” he says. “I used to look at that picture and cry. But now I’m looking at the picture, and I smile. You can see the happiness on his face — him being able to see me accomplish that, something he always believed that I could do.”
WHAT: Michael Strahan receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. Jan. 23
WHERE: 6918 Hollywood Blvd.