Posted: 5:30 a.m.
Even though Willie Anderson played against him just once in the regular season, he says the only defensive end he's played against better than the Giants' Michael Strahan is the late Reggie White.
And the Bengals four-time Pro Bowl right tackle says Strahan should join White in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"Are you kidding me? No question. He should be first ballot," Anderson said Monday night when told Strahan had announced his retirement. "About 140 sacks. He won a (Super Bowl) ring. He won it playing in New York. No question."
Anderson proudly recalled he shut down Strahan in their one meeting, which came in his second season in Giants Stadium during the Bengals' 29-27 loss in 1997. Strahan did manage half a sack, Anderson says, but only when he chased down quarterback Jeff Blake out of the pocket on the other side of the field.
That week he prepared for Strahan, the 22-year-old Anderson remembers offensive line coach Paul Alexander telling him what an absolute bear Strahan had become, then in his fifth season. It kicked Anderson's memory on the first time he saw him play, which turned out to be five years before in his hometown of Mobile, Ala.
"When I was young I remember I would always look through the opponent's media guide that week," Anderson said. "I'm reading about him and I realized I saw him when I was a senior in high school. Alabama State invited the top high school players in the state to their game against Texas Southern and he had four sacks. I remember thinking then, 'How do you block a guy like that?' "
Anderson figured it out, but he says Strahan and the Bills' Bruce Smith are tied for the best guys he's ever faced behind White. Strahan didn't play seven years later when the Bengals beat the Giants, 23-22, at Paul Brown Stadium, and Anderson is disappointed they won't meet in Jersey this September. But Anderson also teed it up against him in the Pro Bowl a couple of times.
"He's got that old-school mentality. He's got a couple of moves. Guys in the '90s had more moves than the guys now," Anderson said. "They had a signature move and he had the bull rush. He'd give you some other moves, but all during the game you're thinking about when that death bull rush is coming. He lost 25 pounds last year and was still bull-rushing guys."
That not only made him valuable, Anderson says, but his ability to pass it on to others is a big part of Strahan's legacy. He looks at the 23 sacks combined by teammates Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck last year on the Giants' way to winning the Super Bowl.
"He taught his whole defensive line how to rush the quarterback," Anderson said. "I'm sure the defensive line coach did, too, but he was able to show those guys how he did it, how to play, and in his 15th season he was still playing at a high level. Look at his backup (Tuck) with 10 sacks."