During his time on the gridiron, few defensive linemen were more fearsome than Michael Strahan. Behind his signature gap-toothed smile, the New York Giants end was a prolific pass rusher; he piled up a record-setting 141.5 sacks during his NFL career. Growing up, however, things were a bit different.
Long before quarterbacks everywhere came to fear Michael Strahan, the future Hall of Famer was actually picked on by his peers. While a mocking nickname “devastated” the boy, those feelings helped him grow into an NFL legend.
Michael Strahan’s unconventional road to the NFL
When you imagine Michael Strahan, you probably picture him wearing the royal blue of the New York Giants or smiling in front of a TV camera. The former defensive end, however, took a pretty unconventional road to the top.
As the son of an Army major, Strahan spent a chunk of his childhood in Mannheim, West Germany. Ahead of his senior year of high school, however, the teenager returned to the United States; he promptly joined the football team, excelled, and earned a scholarship to Texas Southern University.
Strahan suited up for the Tigers and grew into a dominant pass rusher. While he bullied offensive linemen with relative ease and earned plenty of recognition at the conference level, he never became a top-tier NFL prospect.
When the 1993 NFL draft rolled around, the New York Giants snagged Strahan in the second round. Although it took him a few years to hit his stride, the defensive end eventually repaid the club’s faith in him.
A devastating nickname inspired an incredible football career
Due to his status as an NFL player, it’s easy to assume that Michael Strahan was always in prime physical condition. In reality, though, that wasn’t always the case.
According to Sean Gregory of Time, Strahan was “a chunky 13-year-old,” during his time in West Germany; that reality inspired other kids on the army base to nickname him Bob. That wasn’t short for Robert, though.
It stood for Booty on Back. Or, worse, Big Ol’ Butt.”
Like any other teenager who’s on the receiving end of bullying, Strahan was hurt. ““I thought Bob was a cool nickname,” he explained. “I was devastated.”
Those feelings, however, also inspired a change in Strahan. “The taunting, however, drove him to exercise,” Gregory wrote. “His father put him on a weight-lifting regimen, and they’d jog in the woods together. Convinced that his son could earn a football scholarship, Strahan’s father sent him to Houston for his senior year of high school.”
From there, the rest is history.
Michael Strahan eventually turned into a $76 million star
It’s safe to say that being nickname Bob wasn’t an enjoyable experience for Michael Strahan. In the long run, though, everything worked out for him.
As mentioned above, Strahan headed to Texas and earned a college football scholarship; at Texas Southern University, he did enough to earn an NFL job. Once there, he developed into a legitimate star.
During his time with the New York Giants, Strahan became a prolific pass rusher. He broke the single-season sack record in 2001, breaking into the backfield and reaching the opposing quarterback 22.5 times; while the final tackle on Brett Favre may have raised some eyebrows, the Giants’ lineman still earned a place in the record books. He spent a total of 15 seasons in the pros, recording 854 total tackles and 141.5 sacks.
Beyond those statistical accomplishments, Strahan appeared seven Pro Bowls, won a Super Bowl title, and claimed 2001 Defensive Player of the Year honors. According to Sportrac’s financial numbers, he also earned more than $76 million during his time in the pros.
Years ago in Germany, the other kids teased Michael Strahan about his weight. It’s safe to say, however, that Bob got the last laugh.