The first time I met Jay, we were watching a really big, assistant GM who’d gotten his shorts caught on a fence while trying to jump it during practice drills—and laughing our heads off. The place was training camp, 1993, and my first with the Giants. We watched as the guy fell off the fence, rolled down the hill, and when he stood up, he had a piece of sod on his head. We were the only two crazy enough to laugh at the guy, and so, of course, Jay and I became instant friends. To this day, he’s not only my co-commentator on Fox NFL Sunday, but he’s also one of the best guys I know. He’s my best friend, and the guy I chose to present me at the NFL Hall of Fame. He’s got a work ethic that’s relentless and loyal to the end. He’s a legendary sportswriter (Spygate, anyone?), one of the NFL’s best football insiders, hosts Bellator MMA, created the first MMA cross training program in the NFL, the owner of one of the country’s most elite gyms, and the founder of not one but two nonprofits, Touchdown Dreams and Merging Vets & Players. (You know, we even wrote a book together.) But most importantly, he’s got a heart of gold: if he’s brightened someone’s day (which he’s done for me more times than I can count), then he’s a happy dude.
His scrappy beginnings: “When I was about 20 years old, I did everything: I boxed. I did stand-up comedy. I bounced and bartended at clubs. And interned at different radio and TV shows, like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous with Robin Leach. I didn’t want to take a dime from my parents or have to rely on anyone.”
His big break: “The stand-up helped get me an internship at WFAN radio, and that’s when I knew sports stories were my passion. And then that got me a job covering the Giants, in 1993, for a whopping $450 bucks a year. And the first friend I made was a guy with a big, old goofy, gap-tooth smile, and he and I just latched onto each other.”
His New York Post days: “I got $250 a story as a sports columnist. Basically, that was my salary for the week, so I did every kind of job I could think of to make ends meet. I lived in some bad places in New York [because] I wouldn’t accept any money from anybody else, but thank God, I did it my way. Nobody can ever take that from me.”
His game-changer: “I didn’t have the same education as the other reporters in the Giants locker room; they had Pulitzers and Emmys. So, the only thing I could do was be different. I [decided] I was going to have a relationship with the players, be the guy they could trust. Meeting Michael when I first started in this business legitimized me. I don’t know if I’ve ever told him that. If God [hadn’t] put us in each other’s lives that first week, I would not be where I am today.”
His Fox family: “Michael gave a speech at my wedding. I’m the godfather to one of his twins. I’ve trained both of Howie [Long’s] kids. I was best man at Curt [Menefee’s] wedding. There are six of us [on the show] and about 19 personalities, but we’re funny together and we love each other. This season will be my 15th. We’re family.”
The best part of his job: “The relationships. We have credible relationships with the NFL, within sports, with fans, with [people all over] America, wherever we go. I couldn’t have dreamed in a million years that someone would want to talk about football with me. I’m still waiting for my mom to wake fifth-grade me up and tell me it was all a dream.”
The Jay-Stray bromance: “It’s a match made in heaven. We kind of feel like we grew up together: Neither of us takes the other’s crap. We’ve hatched some good practical jokes together. We’ve gotten into some pretty good fights, too. And we’ve had more laughs than anybody could ever wish for in a lifetime.”
His success secret: “My dad taught me if you’re loyal and you out-work the world you’re in, you’ll be successful. Find out who the best is and do more than that person. You can do anything with hard work and it’s not cliché. I decided a long time ago I’d be the last dude standing; it just took 10 years to get a real paycheck.”
His Stray-style: “I love [The Collection by Michael Strahan blazer] because it gives me a whole new look: I wear it out to bars, I’ve worn it on Fox, I’ve worn it on every appearance I’ve had to do. In fact I just talked about it on the Rich Eisen Show Link (Go to 14:45). It was good, but now Michael’s gotta come up with something new [for me].”
His best trait: “The ability to make people laugh. The more people I can get to laugh, the happier I’ll be.
His mottos: “I have a lot of them: Be unbreakable, be relentless. Outwork the world. Success breeds success. And be proud of your scars—they make you different and that difference is what makes you successful.”
What’s next: “We’re hoping to have five more Merging Vets + Players locations open by the end of the year. Ballers season four comes out at the end of July, and we worked Unbreakable Performance Center, my gym, into the show. In two weeks, I’m covering a fight for Bellator in London. We start up with the NFL again [in September]. And I’m working on four other TV projects, too. I’m hoping one of them hits.”