Ex-NFL star Strahan officially joins Kelly

Former football player Michael Strahan, right, poses Kelly Ripa on the set of the newly named "Live! with Kelly and Michael" on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012 in New York. Strahan joined the popular morning show as a permanent co-host on Tuesday, fulfilling a joking prophecy he made to Regis Philbin more than four years ago. The gap-toothed former New York Giant jogged onto the morning show set and picked up co-host Kelly Ripa in a bear hug, lifting her off her feet. He replaces Philbin, who left last November. Strahan was the survivor in a series of on-air tryouts of potential co-hosts since Philbin left, and his hiring has been an open secret for the past two weeks. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP Images)

NEW YORK — The only worry on Michael Strahan’s mind when he made his entrance Tuesday as the new co-host of “Live!” was “don’t trip,” he said up after the show. He didn’t.

When Kelly Ripa introduced him, the 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 said.

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 Tuesday, the former New York Giant joked that it felt “comfy, like it was molded for my body.”

Strahan was relaxed, amiable and playful.

“It’s so nice to have a co-host literally sweep you off your feet,” Ripa told viewers.

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 Tuesday, “and I’m glad the joke came true.”

During their breezy first “host chat,” Strahan amusedly shared from a list of obnoxious pet names for women (“babe” and “sweet cheeks” among them).

“Homeland” star Claire Danes was the first guest, followed by singer Phillip Phillips.

After the broadcast, Strahan downplayed any suggestion that the show would be changing much.

“I think you have two people who can laugh at themselves, who can laugh at each other, who have a good time, who get along, and make sure that anyone who watches the show enjoys it,” Strahan said.

“I think it’s the same formula.”