Michael Strahan and Former Coach Tom Coughlin Work Together to Tackle Pediatric Cancer: 'It's Very Important Work'

"When a child has cancer, the entire family is affected," Tom Coughlin tells PEOPLE

Photo: Courtesy Ken Alswang/The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund

Former New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is continuing his crusade against pediatric cancer, and he’s getting some help from one of his former players, Michael Strahan.

On Friday night, Coughlin’s charity, the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation, hosted its 13th annual Champions for Children Gala. At the event, Coughlin toasted Strahan and the 2007 Giants Super Bowl Championship Team for their dedication to fighting cancer.

Ten years after their Super Bowl win, a lot has changed for both men. Coughlin is now the executive vice president of football operations for the Jacksonville Jaguars; Strahan has built an impressive career as a TV host.

Before the event, Strahan and Coughlin talked to PEOPLE about their longtime friendship and the influence they’ve had on each others’ lives.

Courtesy Ken Alswang/The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund

“It’s like no time has passed at all,” Strahan, 45, tells PEOPLE. “Coach has had a huge influence on my life, both on and off the field.”

“I still set my watch five minutes early because of him,” Strahan continues. (A stickler for punctuality, Coughlin famously considered his players late if they didn’t arrive five minutes before practice started.) “That’s the type of thing that has helped me succeed in my career.”

Adds Coughlin, 71: “I’m very impressed with all that he has been able to accomplish. He’s an example of someone who has been able to go very far after retiring from the NFL. He’s an impressive young man, and…”

“I’m not a young man anymore,” Strahan interrupted.

“Well, you’re young to me,” Coughlin playfully replied. “When you see what he has accomplished, he’s a role model for other players.”

Courtesy Ken Alswang/The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund

Between the 2007 New York Giants and Asset Manager Steve Barry, $1.2 million has been raised to help families whose children are facing cancer diagnoses. “When a child has cancer, the entire family is affected,” says Coughlin. “It affects everyone physically, emotionally and financially. The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation is there to help these families who are going through a very tough time.”

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While Strahan has a full schedule, he says that his bond with his former coach will always be a priority. “When Coach asks me to do something, if I can do it for him, I will,” he says. “Especially when we’re talking about what he does with the Jay Fund. It’s very important work, and I’m honored to be a part of it.”

More information about the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation can be found at tcjayfund.org.

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