Michael Strahan Executes His Game Plan
Inc.|Winter 2020 - 2021
"I’m not going to fool you. This is who I am. This is what you get. I think people have seen every side of me." He retired a Super Bowl champion. Then he let his curiosity, personality, empathy, and leadership skills steer him into a thriving television and business career.
CHRIS NASHAWATY

MICHAEL STRAHAN WAS GASSED, his body and brain running on adrenaline when he glanced at the game clock on the evening of February 3, 2008— Super Bowl XLII. There was just 2:39 left to play, and his New York Giants were trailing the undefeated and heavily favored New England Patriots 14-10. As Giants quarterback Eli Manning prepared to run onto the field for a final, desperate drive, he saw Strahan, the team’s defensive cornerstone, corral the hulking corps of offensive linemen and shout: “Seventeen-fourteen! Believe it, and it will happen!”

This sort of pep talk was part of Strahan’s job. He’d always been able to inspire teammates. His words carried weight because he led by example through his own fiery passion, iron will, and tireless work ethic.

What came next is legendary, at least to Giants fans: Thanks in large part to a circus catch by receiver David Tyree, Manning drove his team 83 yards and into the end zone, which, adding the extra point, put Big Blue ahead 17-14 with 35 seconds to play. After a final defensive stand, Strahan began jumping up and down as the clock ran out, beaming his famous, thousand-watt, gaptoothed smile. He might have been the only one in America who wasn’t surprised by what had just happened.

Recalling the moment 12 years later, Strahan flashes that same smile—the wattage hasn’t dimmed, the gap is just as wide. “Man, I just wanted to win,” he says. “I wanted that Super Bowl ring.” Strahan insists that his motivational words that day weren’t hot air or bluster. “No, no, no. I really believed it. And I wanted them to believe it too.”

This, of course, is what leaders do, whether they’re on the playing field or starting and running companies. They motivate. They inspire. They make you believe that you can do things that even you may not think you can do. They make you better. This may all sound ridiculously trite. But it’s not. It’s actually quite rare—as is Michael Strahan.

Since leaving the NFL, Strahan has engineered a mini empire by tapping into the same set of skills that made him a Hall of Famer— start with his discipline, his hunger-to-win determination, and his leadership, and then throw in his endless curiosity and abundant empathy. He’s a rare television personality who’s as comfortable talking X’s and O’s on Fox NFL Sunday as he is interviewing newsmakers on Good Morning America and serving up prime-time comfort food as the host of The $100,000 Pyramid. He also co-owns a thriving talent management and production company and his own apparel and lifestyle line. Actually, two of them.

His playing days are over, but Strahan is still hustling like there’s just 2:39 left on the clock and he’s down by four points.

Four months after that Super Bowl victory, Strahan quit football. Retired. He was 36 and still an intimidating defensive end. But he knew the smart move was to go out on top. Before he announced his decision to the team’s owners and the press, though, there was one person whose approval he needed first.

Strahan’s father, Gene, was a career military man. He’d always been Michael’s hero and moral lodestar—his role model and ardent champion. Gene had taught his son about the importance of hard work and self-confidence.

Fashion Play

Strahan’s clothing line includes Collection by Michael Strahan (jeans) and MSX by Michael Strahan (shirt and bomber jacket). With apparel, he shifted from style icon to entrepreneur.

He would always set his son straight whenever he used the word if while talking about his dreams. If I get a scholarship. If I make the NFL. “No, son, not if. When,” Gene would say. That mantra was repeated so often during Michael’s formative years that it became hard wired.

Strahan was nervous about breaking the news of his retirement to his dad. But when he called him, half-expecting a lecture about not being a quitter, he was relieved by what the voice on the other end of the phone had to say. “I’ll never forget it,” says Strahan. “He was quiet for a while, and then he just said, ‘There’s no need to do that anymore.’ It was almost like in the movie Babe, when the farmer says, ‘That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.’ ” Telling this story, Strahan gets a catch in his throat. He apologizes. Then he smiles and shakes his head in disbelief—a silent, heartfelt gesture of thanks to a man who died in August, at age 83. Strahan was a natural for his first gig out of retirement— game-day analyst on Fox NFL Sunday. Viewers embraced his personality immediately. But when the season ended, he began to wrangle with what he was going to do the balance of the year. He was itchy and rest less. “It’s not like I was still a player and had to work out every day,” he says. “I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands. And that’s when I started to drop by Constance’s office.”

Constance is Constance Schwartz-Morini. And over the course of the next decade, she would become not only Strahan’s personal manager, consigliere, and business partner, but also the co-author of his next and most unlikely chapter—his rise from “former NFL star” to “crossover TV powerhouse and celebrity entrepreneur.”

Today, star athletes like LeBron James and Steph Curry seamlessly morph from MVP to VC. In Strahan’s era, the investing opportunities, particularly in technology, weren’t as abundant.

The odd couple first crossed paths about 25 years ago when he was playing for the Giants and she was working in the NFL’s corporate sponsorships department, in Manhattan. They immediately hit it off like brother and sister. She was a highly motivated, quick study who grasped the league’s growing expansion into branding, licensing, and special events quicker than most. “Everyone asks me if I got an MBA and went to graduate school,” Schwartz- Morini says, “but working at the NFL was my MBA.”

On the occasions that she found herself working with Strahan in an official capacity, she would always walk away impressed by his openness and curiosity. He wanted to know how things worked on a granular level. “He wasn’t afraid to lean in and do things that are outside of most people’s comfort zones,” she says. “If he wasn’t sure what he was doing, he had no problem asking.”

Strahan once appeared on a show called NFL Lineman Challenge. After the filming wrapped, Schwartz-Morini was headed to the editing room for a long night of postproduction. Strahan asked if he could tag along to see how a show comes together. “That was pure Michael,” she says. “He had that curiosity, that entrepreneurship.”

By the time Strahan retired, Schwartz-Morini had moved on to managing Snoop Dogg, a vividly successful crossover celeb. Every time Strahan was in Los Angeles, he would stop by her office looking for input into his next career move. Eventually, she just said to him point-blank: “Look, instead of just coming to me for advice, why don’t I just manage you?”

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