Tony Siragusa, a member of the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl-winning defense who carved out a post-retirement media career, died Wednesday. He was 55 years old.
Siragusa, nicknamed "Goose," played 12 NFL seasons. He had to overcome a major obstacle on his way there when he tore his ACL in college at Pittsburgh, depleting his draft stock to the point that he went undrafted in 1990.
The Colts signed Siragusa as an undrafted free agent with a signing bonus of $1,000, only after he sold himself as a backup long snapper. For the next seven seasons, he helped anchor the middle of the Indianapolis defense. That tenure peaked when the team made the AFC championship game behind Jim Harbaugh, Marshall Faulk and a top-10 defense.
A dispute with then-Colts director of football operations Bill Tobin led to Siragusa leaving the team in 1996. He found a new home in the Colts' old home, Baltimore, where the recently moved team was in the process of assembling one of the most feared defenses in NFL history.
Siragusa became a fan favorite in Baltimore, and formed a 700-pound wall up front alongside Sam Adams to help the Ravens capture their first title at Super Bowl XXXV in 2001. Adams remembered his time with Siragusa fondly, via the Ravens:
"It was an honor and a privilege to line up next to Tony Siragusa. He made the game fun and was a true competitor. Our D-line room was special on and off the field. May he rest easy, and may God bless and keep his family."
Siragusa retired after the next season due to knee issues, finishing his career with 564 career total tackles, 22 sacks and nine fumble recoveries in 169 games. He also received a spot on the NFL's list of the league's 100 greatest characters.
Tony Siragusa kept entertaining after NFL career
A subsequent media career was a natural fit for the affable Siragusa, who had started by hosting radio shows during his team in Indianapolis. His interviews and eating habits never failed to entertain his fan base, and he found fame as arguably the first breakout character of HBO's "Hard Knocks," which filmed its first season on the 2001 Ravens.
From 2003-2015, Siragusa worked as an NFL sideline reporter and analyst for Fox Sports, usually working with Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston. After leaving Fox, he worked for Yahoo Sports as an NFL commentator.
Siragusa reached the small screen in other ways, hosting the show "Man Caves" on the DIY Network and making an appearance on four episodes of "The Sopranos" as mobster Frankie Cortese.
He is survived by his wife Kathy and three children. His death was the second tragedy to hit the Ravens Wednesday, as linebacker Jaylon Ferguson was announced to have died.
Ray Lewis remembers Tony Siragusa
Among the many remembrances released by the Ravens in the aftermath of Siragusa's death was Super Bowl XXXV MVP Ray Lewis:
"This is a tough one. I love Goose like a brother. From the first day we met, I knew that life was different. I knew he was someone who would change my life forever. He was a one-of-a-kind person who made you feel important and special. You can never replace a man like that.
"On the field, he was the ultimate competitor who brought out the best in all of us.
"We should never put off tomorrow for what we can do today. Hug your loved ones for Goose. We were all so blessed that God gave us that time together celebrating our 2000 team a few weeks ago.
"To the Siragusa family: We have lost a great man, but God has gained a great angel. May they be blessed, held and comforted by the peace he brought to everyone who encountered him."