In a football world that is sometimes devoid of personality, the Goose always stood out.
Tony Siragusa – who sadly passed away at the age of 55 on Wednesday – always managed to come across as larger than life even in a sport full of larger-than-life body types. Known in the locker rooms as a prankster with his own unique sense of humor, the Goose parlayed his football career into a broadcast role in a move that just fit him as a human being.
Siragusa first found his way into the league after going undrafted out of Pittsburgh in 1990. He played for seven seasons in Indianapolis with the Colts, gaining a reputation for his run-stuffing ability. This was a time when backs like Emmitt Smith and Jerome Bettis were tearing up the league, a time before spread offenses and limited defensive back contact meant that teams became more likely to go to the air. If you didn’t have the ability to stop the run, you couldn’t win football games.
Just ask the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.
It was in Baltimore where Siragusa became a household name. The 6-foot-3, 340-pounder played the role of a giant brick wall as the 2000 Ravens won the first Vince Lombardi trophy in franchise history thanks to a competent offense and a historic defense.
As loud as he was off the field – and the New Jersey native with the Italian-American heritage could certainly be that – he was underappreciated on it. Siragusa never once made it to the Pro Bowl, mainly because his 22 sacks in 12 seasons meant that he wasn’t flashy enough with the voters.
What he was, however, was a 3-4 nose tackle that the Ravens could build an entire defense around. The likes of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed were better players because Siragusa occupied two or three blockers on every play. This allowed his more heralded teammates to slice into the backfield and make impact plays because there was simply no one left to lay a block on them.
Because of the Goose.
It was the HBO series Hard Knocks where Siragusa really became a star. The documentary allowed viewers into the heart of an NFL team for the very first time and Siragusa was an absolute natural. Fans got to see a player working as hard as anyone on a day-to-day basis who was also a generous, giving teammate who acted as a team unifier and mentor. His size and personality made him stand out and you can argue that without Siragusa around then Hard Knocks would not have become the iconic property in the HBO library that it has.
Knee injuries could have derailed Siragusa’s career many times. His undrafted free agent status was only because of an ACL tear at Pitt that ruined his stock. Having a massive body with unpredictable knees in the middle of the trenches given the contact in that part of the field is not something that general managers enjoy. Siragusa was not to be denied his own NFL shot, however, and along with all the other great traits of the man was his perseverance and determination to be the best player he could be.
A post-playing career gig as a sideline reporter with Fox lasted until 2015 – Siragusa retired in 2002 – but his media career is much more varied than that one job. He appeared in The Sopranos, as a Russian mobster in 2002’s 25th Hour, and fronted a show called Man Caves on the DIY network. He even had the guts to appear in an ad campaign for Depend for Men because of his concern for men with prostate cancer.
Siragusa was the type of player that fans of a certain age will always hold fond memories of and his place in Baltimore and NFL history is secure.
Article by Premier Players Steve Wright