Michael Strahan Pays Tribute to Regis Philbin: 'He Always Made me Feel Special'

Former Live with Kelly and Michael co-host Michael Strahan shared an emotional tribute to Regis Philbin, who he replaced on the morning talk show. Philbin died on Friday from natural causes at age 88, his family said Saturday. Strahan, who is now an anchor on Good Morning America, joined Kelly Ripa on Live a year after Philbin retired in 2011.

The NFL Hall of Famer said he is "absolutely heartbroken" over Philbin's death, calling Philbin an "incredible man" who could "light up any room." Strahan continued, "He always made me feel special no matter if I saw him in the studio or ran into him on the street. Legend and Icon aren’t strong enough words to describe him. He will never be forgotten!! Sending my love and condolences to his family. I am forever grateful to have known him. RIP."

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Strahan joined Live full-time in 2012 and worked with Ripa until ABC hired him for Good Morning America. The move was controversial, as Ripa did not appear on the show the day Strahan announced he was leaving for a new opportunity. There was speculation that Ripa was not happy with how Strahan's departure was handled, but ABC said she missed the show because of a pre-planned vacation. Ripa came back the next day though, and the two hosted until Strahan's final episode aired in May 2016. A year later, Ryan Seacrest became Strahan's full-time successor.

During the controversy, Philbin said he believed ABC made the decision behind Ripa's back "to a certain degree," he told TMZ in 2016. "I can’t tell because I’m not there, but they’re going to be alright. They’re going to be fine." Philbin also praised Strahan's performance on Live. "He was great with the Giants, he was great on our show, he’s doing a lot of stuff," Philbin said at the time. "They’re going to use him down there [at GMA] because they’re in second place [in the ratings] right now."

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Ripa, who joined Live after Kathie Lee Gifford left in 2000, issued a joint statement with Seacrest Saturday. "We were beyond lucky to have him as a mentor in our careers and aspire every day to fill his shoes on the show," the two said. "We send our deepest love and condolences to his family and hope they can find some comfort in knowing he left the world a better place."

Philbin is survived by his wife Joy and their two daughters, Joanna Philbin and comedy writer J.J. Philbin. He is also survived by his daughter Amy Philbin, whom he shared with first wife Catherine Faylen. Philbin and Falyen were also parents to son Daniel Philbin, who died in 2014.