Since the day I decided football was my sport, my father has supported me. Without him, I wouldn’t have a football career to talk about: He’s the one who started working out with me so I could get stronger and have more self confidence. He’s the one who pushed me when I didn’t feel like pushing myself. He’s the one who took a chance by sending me to the States, when we were still living in Germany, to play a year of high school football because he knew I could get a college scholarship for a game I hadn’t played since I was a kid. His belief in me led to that college scholarship and ultimately led to a Hall Of Fame professional football career. And when I wanted to quit, well, he just wouldn’t let me.
That’s why one of my most cherished pieces of memorabilia, and something that hangs proudly at Strayland, is a picture of my dad taken in France, in 1961: Major Gene Willy Strahan Sr. He was a Golden Glove–winning boxer. About 10 years before I was born, he was all-Army; they called him “Slow-walking Hands,” because he walked real slow, but always said his hands weren’t as slow as his feet. He fought top Marine heavyweight—and the future world champion—Ken Norton, twice. Growing up, I didn’t really know what an incredible boxing career my dad had; I just remember boxing was his thing. He was a judge at some of the fights overseas, when we were living in Germany, and he said he was always underestimated but as a professional athlete, I now know that is the thing that made him dangerous in the ring and a great boxer.
One of Dad’s favorite mottos was, “When something’s going to happen, not if,” because he always liked to think in terms of the positive and without any doubt he was going to achieve whatever he put his mind to. He let me know that when you’re willing to work hard enough, you can make anything happen. He had foresight, a vision for things I didn’t (and couldn’t) see for myself. He dreamed big for both of us, which is another thing he passed along to me: Never limit yourself.
There were a lot of times when he believed in me because I didn’t believe in myself, and it still amazes me how everything worked out. I know without his support and guidance, and the confidence he had in me, I would not be where I am today. A fathers love for his son is special and I love this man with all my heart. Without him, there is no Michael Strahan and of course no Strayland.