The Bears and Cowboys were deep into the first quarter, and Michael Strahan’s colleagues, Terry Bradshaw and Tony Gonzalez, were sitting on the couch in the Fox Sports green room, riveted to the Thursday night game.
But where was Strahan? He finally emerged in the second quarter, and someone said, “Looking good!” as he brushed a hand over his head with a dramatic flourish.
Wait . . . Did he just get a haircut during the game? He did. “It’s the only chance I get,” he said, referring to his first-quarter routine. (He watched the game in another room while being groomed.)
Getting that out of the way enabled him to rush home to the Upper West Side after his halftime appearance, wake up at 5 a.m. on Friday, head to the “Good Morning America” studio, help host that show, then get on a plane to Los Angeles to prepare for Fox’s Sunday NFL studio show.
Such is the increasingly hectic life of the Giants’ Hall of Fame defensive end, who at 48 has forged one of the more improbable and multi-faceted portfolios in media.
He joined “Fox NFL Sunday” in 2008, after retiring as a Super Bowl XLII champion. He joined “GMA” in 2016 after four years hosting a morning show with Kelly Ripa.
He began hosting (and producing) “The $100,000 Pyramid” game show in 2016. He has been hosting a “GMA” spinoff talk show called “Strahan, Sara and Keke” since 2018.
He also is executive producer on the Alex Rodriguez-hosted CNBC show “Back in the Game,” which is produced by SMAC Entertainment, of which Strahan is a founder and partner.
Not bad for a guy who grew up in Germany and Houston and arrived as a second-round draft pick out of Texas Southern in 1993.
What would he have said then if someone had told him all that would happen to him?
“I would have said, ‘Whatever drugs you’re smoking, you should probably get off of them, because this ain’t going to happen,” he said before Thursday night’s pregame show. “I saw some interviews somebody posted from a long time ago, and man, I had a country drawl.”
He imitated himself with an exaggerated accent: “’I’m from Texas. I hope I can come out here and just help the team.’ I was laughing at myself, thinking, boy, they need to get rid of this tape.
“I never would have imagined being in one place for so long, one team, and having a career. I never thought any of that stuff. I was just trying to survive, man, trying not to be a disappointment, trying not to be a bust.”
Strahan wound up playing 15 seasons with the Giants, a franchise record until Eli Manning broke it this season.
But it has been a decade since he left the game and began assembling an array of pursuits that causes friends and strangers to wonder how he does it.
“People look at it and go, ‘Wow, your life has got to be crazy; you never get any sleep,’” he said. “I get more sleep now than I used to get when I was doing less stuff. Because now I have to be more disciplined with my sleep.
“I also have a lot more excuses to get out of stuff that I don’t want to do. At a certain point, I just shut it down and say, ‘No, I can’t do it!”
Strahan also said that because he has gotten to do so many things and visit so many places in his life, he is more apt to say to himself, “OK, I’ve been there and done that stuff. I don’t need to do it again.”
Still, he continues to enjoy unlikely experiences with his work.
Take “GMA,” a morning fixture on ABC since 1975. Does he sometimes find himself sitting on the set wondering how he got there?
“Absolutely,” he said. “And when I’m at home and say there’s something going on with politics, I will watch it. You wouldn’t have been able to pay me enough [before]. Now I’m just doing it because I’m interested.
“It’s amazing how you become interested in different things once you have to exercise a different muscle that I didn’t know I really had.”
Strahan said he feels accepted there but initially felt out of place.
“It was tough at first, because I didn’t necessarily see myself in that world, and I doubted myself that I should be there,” he said.
Then he was shown research indicating that viewers now accept non-traditional ways of presenting news, often by non-traditional presenters.
“Being there now for five years or so, I feel as comfortable there as I feel on the set at Fox,” he said. “I couldn’t always say that. The first few years, I was like, ‘What am I doing here?’ Now, you can put me there and I feel great.”
The game show, a descendant of the one first hosted by Dick Clark in 1973, usually tapes an entire season in 2 ½ weeks, but Strahan said the production schedule might be cut in half for the coming year.
“The game show is fantastic,” he said. “It’s fun. Then you get to see the celebrities connect with a contestant, and they’re just so happy to be there, win or lose. And if they win, you give somebody a lot of money, which for some of them is life-changing.”
Even the Thursday night gig, which concludes this coming week with the Jets visiting the Ravens, is different from Sundays. For the latter, Curt Menefee handles hosting logistics. For the former, it’s Strahan himself.
“It’s a different skill, and it’s given me such an appreciation for the guys who do this all the time, like Curt Menefee and James Brown [of CBS],” he said. “To be a former athlete and have the opportunity to do it is unique.”
Unlike many who played for as long as he did, Strahan said he feels “great” physically.
“I was very fortunate in that regard,” he said. “I really don’t wake up with any pain and go, ‘I really can’t get out of bed, my knee’s killing me, my back, my neck.’ No.
“I don’t know what I did in a previous life, but apparently it was something good or something needed, because this life things have been pretty good. I feel great.
“Actually, I feel sometimes, if I really had it in my heart, and in my head, I could get back out there [on the field].”
That is not in the cards, but as much fun as he is having, Strahan does not expect to be a TV personality forever.
“For some reason I have this thing where I think once I look at myself on TV and say, ‘Damn, man, you sure look a little old,’ it’s time to go,” he said.
At that point, he might dive more into business.
“I like doing stuff that people think you can’t do, and don’t expect for you to do,” he said. “I think that’s why I can do all these things I do, because people don’t expect it: game shows, morning TV, talk shows, producing shows.
“Who would have thought all that? Nobody. So, I like doing things people think you can’t do, especially coming from an athletic background.”
He views his post-playing pursuits as a continuation of what he did on the field.
“I never looked back and said, ‘If I had only worked harder,’” he said. “I had no regrets. I wasn’t crying at the press conference when I retired. I think that’s because I put everything I had into it.”