Three generations of New York Giants Super Bowl Champions visited NYU this week to discuss the life of a world class athlete. The panel, hosted by the NYU Sports and Society Program, discussed topics ranging from being drafted and the first days as a professional athlete to locker room culture and planning for post-NFL life. Moderated by Arthur Miller, founder and chairman of the NYU Sports and Society Program, the panel featured Harry Carson, Michael Strahan, and Victor Cruz.
Harry Carson played 13 seasons as linebacker for the New York Giants. He was captain for 10 of his 13 seasons and was the NFC Linebacker of the Year twice. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006. Michael Strahan was a seven-time Pro Bowler for the New York Giants. He was named the NFL’s 2001 Player of the Year by Sports Illustrated and the 2001 Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press. Strahan will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame later this year. Victor Cruz will be starting his fifth year as a wide receiver for the New York Giants when the 2014 season begins. In 2011, Cruz became the Giants’ all-time single season receiving record holder.
One of the first topics discussed was the transition from college to an NFL locker, an appropriate topic since the NFL Draft is this week. Strahan discussed his first days at training camp and immediately felt the heritage and tradition of the New York Giants. Looking around the locker room he saw these larger-than-life figures such as Bart Oats, Jumbo Elliot, and the intimidating Lawrence Taylor. Strahan cited Taylor as the best player he ever played with. Carson shared Strahan’s sentiments on Lawrence Taylor. “I was happy he was on our team and we didn’t have to face him.” The three panelists had very different Draft Day and first training camp experiences. Carson shared that he felt he had something to prove because he went to South Carolina State, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). He said he felt some of his teammates questioned whether they played the same level of college football at HBCUs as they did at schools like Alabama. Cruz was signed as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Massachusetts by the New York Giants moments after the 2010 NFL Draft concluded. Despite not being drafted, Cruz said he felt a lot of joy when he signed with the Giants and even found a Giants baseball hat to wear around his house just like the first-round draft picks wear in Radio City Music Hall. “In my mind, I was drafted that day.”
As the discussion shifted to life after football, Carson noted that preparations for life after retirement begin as soon as you make the NFL. “Once you sign the paperwork, you don’t know when the clock will run out.” All three athletes discussed their careers outside of football. Victor Cruz co-owns a clothing line, Young Whales, which he started with Nate Collins of the Chicago Bears during the NFL lockout. Strahan is now widely recognized outside of football as the co-host of LIVE with Kelly and Michael and Good Morning America. Strahan credits his jovial personality with his successful transition to media. “In what other place can a guy with a gap in his teeth and a lisp have a career in media? Only in New York!”
Arthur Miller drove the conversation to serious topics including organizational culture. Strahan emphatically stated that as the leader and captain, he never would have let the Miami Dolphins bullying fiasco escalate and leave the locker room. When the discussion shifted to Donald Sterling, Carson felt strongly that he would not have been able to play under similar circumstances. The three athletes did not agree on how best to handle the situation if they were members of the Los Angeles Clippers, but they all agreed with Adam Silver’s handling and ruling. Carson, Strahan, and Cruz spoke highly of the New York Giants ownership. John Mara and Steve Tisch are co-owners of the Giants.
The panel was the first in a series which will be held by the NYU Sports and Society Program.