Tony Siragusa, the nose tackle who played 12 NFL seasons with Indianapolis and Baltimore from 1990-2001, died Wednesday at the age of 55, the Ravens announced.
Known for a personality even larger than his listed 6-foot-3, 330-pound stature, Siragusa went from undrafted defensive lineman to NFL fixture. He found his footing in Indianapolis, where he played in 96 games over seven seasons, recording 405 tackles, 16.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. But he truly made his mark as a member of the Baltimore Ravens, tallying 159 tackles, 5.5 sacks, one forced fumble and four fumble recoveries and winning a Super Bowl in the 2000 season before becoming a fan favorite as a star of the first-ever Hard Knocks series in 2001.
"There was no one like Goose," former Ravens coach Brian Billick said in a statement, "a warrior on the field and a team unifier with a giving, generous heart who helped teammates and the community more than most people know. We would not have won the Super Bowl without him. This is such stunning, sad news, and our hearts go out to Kathy and the Siragusa family."
Siragusa shined in front of the HBO and NFL Films cameras, using one interview to express genuine displeasure with Baltimore's weigh-in policy ("I mean if I smell a hamburger, I gain two pounds.") for the 2001 season and detailing how he'd tasked rookies with filling in his weight on the team's chart each day. The ever-expressive Siragusa was a natural fit and perfect focus for the series, which has continued on an annual basis for the majority of the last 21 years.
"Goose was quite a character, but he was one of our leaders on the 2000 Super Bowl team," former Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. "He was probably one of the best run-stoppers to play for our defense over the years. My heart breaks for Kathy, Samantha, Anthony Jr. and Ava. They are in my prayers."
Siragusa stood out on Hard Knocks ahead of his final NFL season, but it was just the beginning of his on-camera success. Siragusa left the field for the sidelines, serving as a member of the NFL on FOX broadcasting crew as a sideline reporter, working for the network through the end of the 2015 season. The New Jersey native also appeared as a member of Tony Soprano's crime family in multiple episodes of the HBO series The Sopranos, hosted a DIY Network show Man Caves and worked as a pitchman for brands such as Depends adult diapers.
His professional days began with disappointment. Siragusa was regarded as a potential first-round pick, but a knee injury suffered at the University of Pittsburgh tanked his draft stock, dropping him from the top round to out of the 1990 draft entirely. Indianapolis happily signed Siragusa and watched him blossom into a consistent contributor, and although he never garnered postseason awards typical of a star, he certainly carried himself as one.
Alan Grant, a former NFL defensive back and writer for the now-defunct ESPN The Magazine, once described Siragusa as "a fun-loving wiseass" who "had an unmistakable confidence that endeared him to his teammates." That same confidence propelled him to a lengthy NFL career that included a Super Bowl triumph. And along the way, Siragusa created many memories for those around him -- memories that will endure long after his passing.