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The German connection between Michael Strahan and Markus Kuhn

Michael Strahan and Markus Kuhn are seen in

Michael Strahan and Markus Kuhn are seen in this Newsday composite. Credit: Paul J. Bereswill; Brad Penner

Michael Strahan began his Hall of Fame career playing American football for the Mannheim Redskins in Germany, but hardly anyone knows that. Not even the people in Mannheim.

"It goes a little bit under the radar," Giants' third-year defensive tackle Markus Kuhn told Newsday.

Kuhn was born in Mannheim.

"I heard about him," he said, "but I never really realized [he was raised in Germany] until really I got to college or really when I got here and we talked about it."

Even now, with Strahan on the eve of induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there isn't much pride over the player's local beginning. No parades, no ceremonies, no banners or plaques being raised.

"A few guys who play football in Germany, their claim to fame is probably that they've seen him once, they met him when he was a little kid," Kuhn said.

Strahan was 9 years old when he moved to Germany with his parents. His father Gene was a major in the Army. He played linebacker for the Mannheim Redskins in 1985, his first experience with organized football. Kuhn was a linebacker for the Mannheim Longhorns, another American football team in the area, but he said he feels a stronger connection to Strahan through the Giants than their Germanic roots.

"For me, it just shows the Giants defensive line has always been great and now you have one of the great ones going to the Hall of Fame," he said. "It's more a motivation for us, to keep the high standard we have at our position, to keep it at that level."

In fact, Kuhn said he didn't even realize Strahan had spent time in Germany until they were introduced through the Giants.

"He always calls me 'Mr. Mannheim' because that's the city where I was born," Kuhn said. "He lived there when I was there . . . He knows that team. He knows exactly where I'm from, we're from the same area. We were joking once that Mannheim, Germany, creates good defensive linemen for the New York Giants. We'll see. I'm not at his level by far."

Kuhn's career may not end in Canton, but at least he can always say it started in the same place as a Hall of Famer.

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