NEW YORK (AP) — The only worry on Michael Strahan's mind when he made his entrance Tuesday as the new co-host of "Live!": "Don't trip," he summed up after the show.
When Kelly Ripa introduced him, the gap-toothed former football player jogged onto the morning show set and gathered her up in a bear hug, lifting her off her feet.
"When I was hugging Kelly, that's when I was calming down," Strahan explained.
The rest of the hour was clearly a snap for him and for Ripa, who was getting a permanent partner nine months after Regis Philbin retired from the show and after having welcomed Strahan and 58 other guests in the chair beside her.
Taking his seat on Tuesday, the former New York Giant joked that it felt "comfy, like it was molded for my body."
Strahan was relaxed, amiable and playful, and drew "ahhhs" from women in the studio audience when he presented Ripa with a dozen red roses.
"It's so nice to have a co-host literally sweep you off your feet," Ripa told viewers, "and I know that he can bench press me if he wanted to."
Maybe his arrival was fulfilling a prophecy. Ripa played a clip of Strahan's first appearance on the show in 2008, shortly after the Giants had won the Super Bowl. Philbin asked Strahan what he would want to do after retiring from football, and Strahan said that Philbin's job looked pretty good.
"I was joking," Strahan said on Tuesday, "and I'm glad the joke came true."
Strahan's hiring has been an open secret for the past two weeks. His selection was made official a couple of minutes into what, since November, had gone by the stripped-down title "Live! With Kelly" and now rechristened "Live! With Kelly and Michael."