Michael Strahan Almost Played For Jimmy Johnson and the Dallas Cowboys

Thirteen years after hanging up his helmet, Michael Strahan remains a face of New York Giants football. For 15 years, he was one of the most feared defensive forces in the NFL — entirely with the Giants. Luckily for his fans, a promise from the Cowboys’ Jimmy Johnson was rescinded before draft day. Strahan’s career changed before it had officially begun.

Michael Strahan and the Giants

Former NY Giant Michael Strahan in 2009
Former NY Giant Michael Strahan in 2009 | Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Fox

In 1993, Strahan was drafted out of Texas Southern in the second round. Over the next 15 years, he became one of the greatest defensive ends in history. Strahan took a few years to establish himself as a star, but he was an All-Pro player and perennial Pro Bowler by 1997.

One of Strahan’s signatures was getting sacks. His breakout year, in 1997, saw him with a then-career-high 14 sacks, but he was just getting started. He followed that year up with a 15-sack season and another inclusion into the NFL’s All-Pro team. After a couple of slower years, he proved he had even more to give the Giants. 

Strahan’s greatest year as a pro was 2001. He sacked quarterbacks 22.5 times, had 73 combined tackles, and proved that while he was on the wrong side of 30, he still had a lot to give.  After his fourth and final All-Pro season in 2003, Strahan had one hurdle to cross before retirement: a Super Bowl victory. 

This came at the expense of Tom Brady and the Patriots, who headed into the big game undefeated before being stunned by Strahan and company. After hoisting the trophy, Strahan called it quits and pursue his successful TV career. According to an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Strahan’s career almost looked drastically different. 

Strahan: Cowboys legend?

According to Strahan, he was all set to go to the Dallas Cowboys entering the 1993 draft. Jimmy Johnson spoke to him personally about the prospect of joining the team. Scouts even came to Strahan’s house to gauge his interest and discuss a career in Dallas. Then, something changed at the last minute. 

“[Johnson] was about to draft me when he was coaching the Cowboys,” Strahan told Fallon. “I went to Dallas, I met with everybody, Jimmy, Jerry Jones, everybody. They promised me they were drafting me in the first round … Sent a scout to my house on draft day. Guy comes over, eating up my food, watching the draft, and then they trade the pick!” 

Promises like these are commonplace in sports, and broken promises may be just as common. Drafts are impossible to predict. While a team may intend to draft a player like Strahan, if somebody falls into their path, or a trade is offered, all bets are off. Perhaps this was the best thing that happened to Strahan.

How would Strahan have fit on the Cowboys? 

Strahan’s career would’ve looked different as a Cowboy. On one hand, he might’ve been able to reap the benefits of playing for Dallas in the height of its dominance. However, it’s also likely that Strahan’s early struggles with the Giants and desire to win fueled his passion for the game. Maybe the Cowboys tenure would’ve resulted in a worse player. 

Nobody will know whether Strahan’s tenure with the Cowboys would have gone similarly, but his story shows how early hurdles in the road can reap benefits that are not immediately noticeable.

With a Hall of Fame career behind him and a TV career in front, Strahan has no reason to look back at what could’ve been. Still, it’s a funny story about what happens to prospects as they prepare for the NFL.

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