GMA's Michael Strahan discusses evolving TV career, clothing line, high school athletes and NFL

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Michael Strahan hosts plenty of shows these days — "Good Morning America," "$100,000 Pyramid" and now USA TODAY’s High School Sports Awards, which he will co-host alongside Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski.

The USA TODAY High School Sports Awards will premiere on Aug. 5.

Strahan played one year of high school football and might have had one sack, he recalled. The Super Bowl champion was so unfamiliar with the game, he wasn’t positive the play was successful for the defense.

“I just remember everyone cheering when I got up off the ground,” Strahan said. “That’s probably the only high school (football) memory I have.”

Strahan discussed a variety of topics with USA TODAY Sports, ranging from advice, to his clothing line, to his media responsibilities and to the current state of the New York Giants.

Questions and answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Michael Strahan will co-host the USA TODAY High School Sports Awards.
Michael Strahan will co-host the USA TODAY High School Sports Awards.

USA TODAY: When you’re speaking to somebody (high school age), what do you want the takeaway to be? What’s the most important piece of advice you can give them?

Michael Strahan: “Enjoy it. Have fun. It’s not a business at that point. It’s meant to be a way for you to connect with your friends, to learn about teamwork, about hard work.

“It’s about just having fun and enjoying the moment, not ‘Once I go to college,’ or ‘Once I go to the pros.’ That is so far-fetched for most that, just enjoy the process along the way.”

USA TODAY: I understand your clothing line has “work-leisure” apparel, what’s that all about?

MS: “Clothing line’s been going since 2015. That was more tailored. So we launched our Collection by Michael Strahan, which is men and boys tailored and denim and a lot of accessories. Then we did the athleisure line. Now we’re doing a work-leisure line. I think COVID kind of opened up a whole new idea of work, and what the work look should be, especially if you’re at home and you’re doing all of these Zooms or other ways we communicate now.

"The ability to be able to do those things, still be running around all day, still be able to hit the gym and work out without having to change five times, that’s work-leisure.”

USA TODAY: What would you like to accomplish ultimately with the clothing? Have you thought about that?

MS: “I think between our collection and tailored and MSX and our athleisure, work-leisure brand, I just love building. I love building a brand that is something that I actually believe in, I actually wear. Every day. Right now, if I go to the gym, I’m wearing things with my name on it. And it feels good to produce things at a price point people can actually afford and at a quality people can expect. You’re proud to have your name on it and wear it yourself and represent.

“We’ve been doing well with Men’s Wearhouse and just look forward to build out that relationship, add more categories in the future and make it just a bigger brand.”

USA TODAY: Do you have a favorite part about hosting "Good Morning America?"

MS: “First of all, I get to work with fantastic people. Smart, engaged, funny people. Another favorite part is that it changes. It’s never the same. There’s no two days where you, ‘Oh yeah, same news.’ ... The enjoyment of that makes me more engaged, because I understand work can change at the drop of a hat."

USA TODAY: How does that compare to Fox work?

MS: “GMA has different tones to it. It has the funny tone, the serious tones, it has the intermediate tones. Fox is just flat-out fun. Terry, Howie, Jimmy, Curt, Jay, it’s like a dream team of friends. And I get to hang out with my friends on Sunday and just watch football, which I would watch anyway, talk about it anyway. Except for here, I get to do it with my buddies and we all get paid.”

USA TODAY: When you’re doing it, going back and forth, it sounds like there are mental switches you have to flip. Did that come naturally to you or is that something you had to work on?

MS: “I think for me, it’s come from football. When I was younger, I always thought I had to figure out ways to get mad at my opponent in order to go out there and be aggressive. Like, ‘He said something about my mama!’ Well, he didn’t say anything about my mama. That only works for so long before you realize, you can’t just keep falling back on that. So I had to learn and just do that for the enjoyment.

"So I can sit on the sidelines and have a conversation with you, and then they’d be like ‘Defense!’ and I’d be like, ‘Hey Chris, hold on for a second,’ and then go out there and be aggressive, ultra-focused, do what I gotta do. Yeah, I can smile at you while I’m doing it. And then come back to the sidelines, take my helmet off and pick up the conversation where we left off.

"For each job, I need a different switch. The muscle in the brain that I exercise for 'GMA' is different from what I exercise for Fox, which is different from what I exercise for '$100,000 Pyramid,' which is different from what I exercise when I’m doing anything else. You learn to do that, and I just think it’s made my life a lot easier and it makes everything seem much more enjoyable.”

USA TODAY: I’m glad you brought up '$100,000 Pyramid.' What can we expect from the rest of this new season?

MS: “You can expect me to give away a lot of money, which I love, because it’s fun. This is life-changing money for a lot of people, and I think that’s the great thing about this show.

“You never know how it’s going to go. You can play it at home with your family. I love to tell people -- everybody thinks that since I host the show, I know everything. I don’t. I only know the categories. I don’t know those words. So I'm sitting there at the podium, playing along with everyone at home. That’s one of my favorite things about it.”

USA TODAY: How was interviewing former President (Barack) Obama?

MS: “Fantastic. It’s always great to talk to him. We discussed, you name it. All kinds of topics. Some that aren’t going to make the cut, like golf and other different things. But he’s always fun, always engaging. He looks fantastic. He’s in great shape, made me realize I need to get back in the gym. Just such a smart man.

"The day before that, I interviewed former President (Bill) Clinton, and he’s always great. I’ve known him for a long time. It’s really unbelievable to me sometimes. I look at my life and go, ‘How did this happen?’ Here I am running into people on the football field, I didn’t know how to play football, to being a Giant, to doing all these different things and now I’m interviewing presidents. I take it all in stride and I never not appreciate it.”

USA TODAY: All right, a few NFL things. As vaccination numbers come in, it looks like coaches and staff are nearly all vaccinated. But when it comes to the players, it’s a little more than half. Why do you think there’s hesitation?

MS: “People have their own opinions of how they feel about the vaccines. Certain people feel as if they want more information. They want to know a little bit more about it. They want to see how people are reacting about it. And I can’t fault them for that. We’re human beings. Some people fear.

"But to be over 50 percent, I think that’s a great thing, and I hope it’s only going to trend up. With the coaches, that’s great, because you have a lot of older coaches, pre-existing conditions.

"I don’t bemoan any player who hasn’t gotten vaccinated. I would love it if they did out of their own safety and the safety of their families, but you just have to live the life you choose to live.”

USA TODAY: So if you were a leader in a locker room, and you saw the differences between the protocols at various thresholds, would you encourage it if you thought it would benefit the team? Obviously still respecting individuality.

MS: “I think it’s an individual thing. I look at all of the requirements if you’re not vaccinated, and then look at the things you need to do if you are vaccinated, and it’s almost to the point where you look and go, ‘Boy, you might as well get vaccinated.’ I don’t think there’s a right way of looking at it. You have to look at whatever your beliefs are, whatever works for you, physically and mentally.

"For me, personally, I would get vaccinated. I am vaccinated. I just respect individuality and that not everybody’s of the same mindset or mind-frame. Would it be great for a team to freely run around and do what they need to without some of the restrictions? Absolutely. But I don’t think that would be realistic on any football team.”

USA TODAY: You mention the individuality of it right there, and we saw that last week with Carl Nassib. Do you think that’s been a long time coming?

MS: “I respect the hell out of Carl. Because Carl did one of the bravest and toughest things for anybody to do, not just an NFL player. That’s where I think this gets lost. I don’t say, ‘Well, Carl is an NFL player.’ Carl is a human being, first of all. The NFL just happens to be his job. And I just hope that Carl’s career is not overshadowed that he came out, but that we see Carl as a football player, the great football player that he is...

"But I commend him for being brave enough to say, ‘This is me.’ And not do it for attention. I can’t imagine someone having to do that, and not for your own sake, but in a lot of ways, for the sake of other people.”

USA TODAY: Daniel Jones. Is he the guy?

MS: “You know what? I love Daniel. As a person, absolutely. I think he has the perfect temperament, perfect everything for the position as a Giant. Physically? I’ll be honest with you, what an incredible athlete ... I think he could be that guy. He is the guy. Now I think you’re giving him what he needs, and I think Jason Garrett is going to do the right job setting himself up in this system so he could be successful and lead the drive to a Super Bowl, which I’m hoping is very soon.”

USA TODAY: Speaking of Super Bowls. Final drive of the Super Bowl XLII, you go up to the offense before they go out onto the field and say something like, “If you believe it, it will happen.” Was that off the cuff? Planned it?

MS: “I did not plan that. You know what, it was crazy. My dad always said ‘when’ never ‘if.’ So it was always ‘when this happens, when that happens.’ For me, my mindset in life and why I didn’t stop after football, is (because) my mindset is ‘Well, let me do something else.’ And my dad was telling me before the game, ‘When you’re going to win.’ ‘When you’re going to win the Super Bowl, son, when this’ and I’m like, well, Dad, I think these guys are undefeated. They’re kicking everybody’s ass.

"To get into that game, where we held the highest-scoring offense in the league to 14 points, and we have the ball one more time, it just came out. Like, ‘Guys, I can’t do anything to help us win. But you can. But we’re going to do it. This is a certainty. When is right now for us.' And at the end of the day, that’s exactly what we did."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Michael Strahan opens up about 'GMA,' his evolving TV career, NFL