Tony Siragusa, the charismatic defensive tackle who helped lead a stout Baltimore defense to a Super Bowl title, has died. He was 55.
The Baltimore Ravens, for which Siragusa played five seasons, said Siragusa died “unexpectedly” Wednesday morning. A cause of death was not immediately given.
“This is a really sad day,” Siragusa’s broadcast agent, Jim Ornstein, told The Associated Press. “Tony was way more than my client, he was family. My heart goes out to Tony’s loved ones.”
Siragusa, known as “the Goose,” played seven seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and five with the Ravens. Baltimore’s 2000 team won the Super Bowl behind a defense that included Siragusa, Ray Lewis and Sam Adams.
“This is a tough one. I love Goose like a brother,” Lewis said Wednesday in a statement, adding, “He was a one-of-a-kind person who made you feel important and special. You can never replace a man like that.”
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted: “The Goose squeezed 200 fun loving years into 55!! He was one of the most physically strongest players I have ever seen in 50 years In Greece, they would ask 1 question at the end of one’s life; Did He Have Passion? In Tony’s case..Yes He Did!!”
Siragusa was popular with fans because of his fun-loving personality, which also helped him transition quickly to broadcasting after his playing career.
Siragusa came to Baltimore as a free agent in 1997 and teamed up with Adams to form an imposing defensive tackle tandem. In the Ravens’ 2000 championship season, the 6-foot-3, 340-pound Siragusa was sixth among Baltimore defenders with 75 tackles.
“It was an honor and a privilege to line up next to Tony Siragusa,” Adams said in a statement following news of Siragusa’s death. “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 finished his career with 22 sacks.
The news of Siragusa’s death came on what was already a tragic day for the Ravens. Thea linebacker for Baltimore, at age 26 was announced earlier in the day.
“This is a tremendously sad day for the Baltimore Ravens,” owner Steve Bisciotti said. “We appreciate everyone who has expressed an outpouring of support for our players, coaches and staff.”
Siragusa was a star football player and wrestler at David Brearley High School in New Jersey. He then played collegiately at Pittsburgh, where he had a reputation for wisecracks well before his NFL career.
“If I wanted to learn a school song, I would’ve gone to Notre Dame or Penn State,” he once said. “I want to kill people on the football field. That’s why I came to Pitt.”
Siragusa went undrafted before signing with Indianapolis, but he turned out to be a championship-winning force in the NFL. Then he took his personality to the airwaves, working for Fox’s NFL coverage.
“His incomparable passion for football established him as one of the most charismatic personalities ever to set foot on the gridiron or in front of a camera,” Fox Sports said in a statement. “Goose was a natural in his ability to relate the sport and its players to fans everywhere.”
Siragusa also had a role on HBO’s “The Sopranos” and hosted shows on the Discovery Channel and DIY Network.
“Tony truly was bigger than life, on and off the field,” said Pat Narduzzi, Pitt’s current football coach. “He played the game passionately and relentlessly. Despite not being drafted, he thrived in the NFL for 12 years. His post-football life took him so many places but he never forgot Pitt. We could always count on him to send the best recorded pep talks to our guys before our biggest games.”