By Lenny Moon
Early in my collegiate football broadcasting career, I was assigned to provide said services for the renown Historically Black College (HBCU) located in the heart of centrally located Third Ward smack dab in the middle of Houston, Tx. Texas Southern University (TSU) is located a short distance from downtown, the world famous Medical Center, the University of Houston, Rice University and even closer to the Cuney Homes (former residence of George Floyd who “shook up the world” with his untimely death symbolic of police brutality unjustly assessed against minorities). I had previously covered the Tigers from a distance while serving as the Sports Editor of the Houston Newspages. But once I became one of the voices of TSU’s football team, with it required more time invested to become more versed about the product that I would be articulating.
Once embedded, I quickly noticed that several of the members of the coaching staff were former players of the local NFL franchise Houston Oilers. Being a huge Oilers fan for years, I readily recognized several staff members and former pro players such as Conway Hayman (who blocked for Earl Campbell), along with former secondary stars C.L. Whittington and Al Johnson. Head Coach Walter Highsmith, who also had a pro football resume, was in the second year of his five year contract. His son Alonzo was a starting running back across town for the Oilers during this same period. As a broadcaster, the defensive coordinator and offensive coordinator were where one procured the insight of the players, in addition to Highsmith. Whittington at that time was the defensive coordinator, who molded several of his pupils from that program that went on to the NFL ranks. Coach Whittington often spoke of a protégé that was originally a raw prospect, who actually had not played many years of football prior to his arrival at TSU, that was absorbing the coaching and quickly developing into a force as an edge pass rusher.
Michael Strahan was not your prototypical recruit that comprised the resume of your typical collegiate student-athlete. His trek carried him to a military upbringing in Mannheim, Germany before returning back to the states and H-Town (his birthplace) to live with his uncle Art. As the Strahan folklore has it, Michael’s only college scholarship offer was TSU due to his uncle’s connection to Coach Highsmith and his alma mater. Our paths intersected around 1991 (Mike’s junior season) when he was emerging as a star at his position in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Since I was now part of the radio broadcasting contingent, I felt compelled to implement a head football coach’s show that was noticeably missing with the blessing of Coach Highsmith. During that era, Houston Sports and Entertainment (HSE) was the outlet for a large chunk of the football coaching shows that I had witnessed. As fate would have it, I inadvertently crossed paths with that station’s general manager Jack Stanfield and worked out a deal where we could get TSU football on the televised airwaves. Through Stanfield, we were not only airing in the Houston market, but also the Southwest Region which included other connecting states such as Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Mike would appear a couple of times as “Player of the Week” where we would highlight the TSU gridder’s exploits on the field, but also take that opportunity to discuss their academics and/or profile related entities.
Little did anyone know at the time that Strahan would continue to develop on and off the field, drafted in the 2nd round of the 1993 NFL Draft, become a 7-time Pro Bowl selection, enjoy a sterling 15-year NFL career, Super Bowl XLII champion, 2000s All-Decade Team, New York Giants Ring of Honor, No 92 jersey permanently retired, Black College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame among other accolades. And those are just some of his on field accomplishments. The Houston native would go on to become an NFL studio personality for Fox NFL, “Live with Kelly and Michael”, “Good Morning America” co-host, the “$100,000 Pyramid” host among others while fully taking advantage of his New York City celebrity and ambition. And if that wasn’t enough, Strahan is slated to launch into space on Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin’s rocket slated for December 2021. This gentleman has certainly come quite a distance from his highlight having been knocking out Alcorn State’s QB Steve “Air” McNair while at TSU to going where only a few humans have ever traveled.