Kelly Ripa's got a new morning TV partner: Michael Strahan.
"We finally have our new guy." Ripa said on the newly-named "LIVE! With Kelly and Michael" today as she introduced the former football star. "It's an exciting morning."
"I'm speechless," Strahan said, after bounding out of a limo and running down a red carpet to Ripa. "I adore you. I am so happy to be here and be a part of this. You know how they say it's a dream come true? I truly can't say I even dreamed this."
Reports that Strahan landed the gig began circulating in August. The former New York Giants defensive end was among the 59 co-hosts who have filled in since the departure of Regis Philbin, who hosted "Live!" for 28 years before departing last November.
Other candidates for Philbin's old job included "Saturday Night Live's" Seth Meyers and NY1 anchor Pat Kiernan. Many co-hosts came for fun, like Neil Patrick Harris, Josh Groban, Nick Lachey and Ripa's husband, Mark Consuelos.
Strahan, 40, has dabbled in other TV projects since retiring from the Giants after their 2008 Super Bowl win. He serves as a co-host of "Fox NFL Sunday." He also starred in the short-lived Fox sitcom "Brothers" in 2009 and has appeared in several commercials. In a press conference following today's show, he said he'll keep his Sunday job and commute between New York and Los Angeles, where "Fox NFL Sunday" is produced.
Ripa told reporters that she knew Strahan was the man for the job in 2008, when he babysat her kids for a taped segment on "LIVE!"
"I was watching him with my kids during the shoot and after the cameras were off, and I said to myself, 'This is a good man,'" she recalled. "He was just so game and so spontaneous and so much fun."
Ripa said the decision to bring in Strahan as a permanent co-host was "a conversation between the executives and the network" but she "of course had a little bit of say."
"I wear my heart on my sleeve," she said, "so it's pretty obvious that I love him."
Strahan recalled getting emotional in the offices of "LIVE!" when Ripa asked if he'd consider joining the show. But his morning, before his debut, he was focused on only one thing. "Don't trip, literally," he said. "It was surreal, overwhelming. ... when I was hugging Kelly, that's when I was calming down."