A team spokesperson said Tony Serragosa, the body wall known as “Goose” who cemented the Ravens’ record-setting defense during the team’s first Super Bowl race, died on Wednesday. He was 55 years old.
The cause of death was not immediately known.
The New Jersey native was an unpolished free agent who began his 12-year career with the Indianapolis Colts before becoming a fan favorite over five seasons with the Ravens from 1997 to 2001. He was a classic nose tackle, holding several space blockers for a quarterback. Hall of Fame Ray Lewis as the Ravens set a record by allowing only 165 points over 16 games in 2000.
But the 330-pound giant was known for his gentle personality as his strength on the field. He was the star of the first season of the HBO documentary series “Hard Knox,” wearing T-shirts with “Big Daddy” written across his chest and cracking jokes about how he tortured newbies. That paved the way for an acting career and 13 years as a pre-game and sideline figure in Fox’s NFL coverage.
“He was just a huge figure,” recalls his teammate, linebacker Peter Bulwer. “When he entered the room, he owned it. He was the life of the room, the life of the party. He was just the life of everything.”
“This is challenging,” Mr. Lewis said in a statement provided by the Ravens family. “I love ‘Goose’ like my brother. From the first day we met, I knew life was different. I knew he was someone who would change my life forever. He was such a unique person who made you feel important and special. You can never replace a man.” like this “.
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said he was sad, calling Mr. Siragosa “a special person and one of the most popular players in Ravens history.”
Mr. Serragosa loved to write stories about his Italian roots, which were cemented in his hometown of Kenilworth, New Jersey, where there was a road, Via Vitale, named after his grandparents, and a seemingly endless supply of sausages, ravioli and cannoli. He had friends with nicknames like “Big Nose” and “Hacksaw” when he grew into a defensive force at David Brearley High and then the University of Pittsburgh.
The father of three (Samantha, 25; Anthony Jr., 23; and Ava, 20) began dating his wife, Cathy, in high school, and she later told Baltimore friends, “I knew the whole package from the start.”
Siragoza was a free spirit, and when he wasn’t running back crush, he rode a Harley-Davidson, fished a marlin from his 30-foot boat and donned scuba gear for his scuba excursions in the Bahamas.
He came to the Ravens in 1997, when the team was still struggling in its second season after moving from Cleveland.
Longtime team spokesperson Kevin Byrne had seen Siragoza perform a sack dance during the Ravens’ loss to the Colts the previous year, so he assumed a prima donna was entering his world.
Instead, he met “one of the greatest and most popular personalities in the history of the Ravens.”
Sir Seragoza was notorious for his disdain for the training camp. One year, he held out, only to get to the team’s training site in Westminster via helicopter. He starved himself for days to make weight coach Brian Bellick a weight requirement and when Mr. Bellick said he didn’t actually have to weigh in, Seragoza got angry.
Another summer, he showed up with a paintball gun and used it to torture team rookies and cleaners at the Best Western where the crows stayed. Asked by coach Ted Marchebroda to cut it down, he fired a final shot a few feet away at a guard who was cleaning up an upstairs. “You missed one!” shouted Mr. Siragoza.
When the man came down to speak to him, Sir Seragosa removed a roll of banknotes and handed it over, and finally gave a smile. At least he paid for his mistakes, Mr. Byrne said.
Mr. Bulwer was the team’s first pick in 1997. “If you’re a rookie, he’ll let you know you’re a rookie. Once you graduate from that, he welcomes you in.”
Siragosa was a full-time player and leading voice as the Ravens defense gradually morphed into one of the most feared defenses in NFL history. He and his defensive tackle Sam Adams had the steady forces in the lead.
“Goose was a great character, but he was one of our captains in the 2000 Super Bowl,” former Ravens general manager Ozzy Newsom said. “He was probably one of the best goalkeepers to play in our defense over the years.”
His influence far exceeded the internecine combat that he specialized in on the field.
“Some of us were immature and didn’t really know how to be a professional, and having guys like ‘Goose’ sitting with you, and having anchors like that all over the locker room, was a big deal to our success,” said Mr Bulwer. “Siragoza, he was always lightening the mood, making boot camp, or just the hard times, easier. He was laughing at himself and laughing at us.”
During the 2000 AFC Championship game, he led the Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon to the top spot on the shoulder, a pivotal game as the Ravens carried the attack high to three points. Although Mr. Siragoza has always maintained that he had no intention of harming Mr. Gannon, the blow fell as a prime example of the crows’ punitive style as they rampaged to the Super Bowl.
“We wouldn’t have won the Super Bowl without him,” Bellick said emphatically.
Once he reached the biggest stage in the sport, Mr. Seragosa was a luxury in the spotlight. A reporter asked what job he hates. “I’d hate to be a plumber if my sewers were backed up,” he said.
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While transitioning to work on Spike Lee “25th Hour” or “The Sopranos” and appearing on Fox’s NFL shows, his castmates smiled at the character they all remember. “People saw him and assumed, ‘This is theater or he’s just trying to act,'” said Mr. Bulwer, “but that was just him.” “Camera or no camera, this is a ‘goose.’ That’s why we liked him so much.”
Mr. Byrne said Mr. Siragoza’s actions obscured his tender side. When a fire ravaged the apartment of one of his teammates a few days before Christmas, Mr. Seragoza showed up with a car full of gifts for the player’s displaced family. Over the years, he would alert the crows when his former teammate was lucky and needed support.
He’d say, “Let’s just make sure he’s okay.”
When key players from Team 2000 recently gathered at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall to film scenes for an upcoming ESPN documentary, Mr. Siragosa told the best jokes but also took the time to check-in with everyone, Mr. Byrne said. He was never just a class clown.
The Ravens family did not disclose details of the services, and said in a statement that “the Seragosa family asks everyone to respect their privacy during this difficult time.”
Siragoza said he always tried to maintain a sense of humor and optimism, even in the face of tragedy. In his 2012 appearance with radio host Howard Stern, he recalled the night he held his father, Peter, who was gasping for air as he had a fatal heart attack.
Mr. Stern asked Mr. Siragoza, who was 21 when his father died, if he was concerned about the same fate. ‘If I die tomorrow,’ he replied, ‘I told my wife, ‘Just put a smile on my face, and put on a little Sinatra.’