Tony Siragusa, a defensive tackle who played on one of the finest defensive units of all-time passed away recently.
His death hit me hard since I worked with him for several years on my Fox NFL broadcasts.
Tony was only 55 years old, which was tragic in itself, and my thoughts of my experience dealing with him week-in-and-week out came to the forefront.
If you’re a football fan, you know who he was.
If you’re not, let me fill you in.
Siragusa played for 12 years. First, for the Indianapolis Colts, and later for the Baltimore Ravens where in his six seasons, played a major role in the Ravens first Super Bowl championship in 2000.
Tony played alongside Sam Adams, and with a combined 700 pounds clogging the middle, the Ravens set records in stuffing the run.
The star of the defense was middle linebacker Ray Lewis, another great run defender, and that group enabled the Ravens to win a Super Bowl without a franchise quarterback.
All Trent Dilfer had to do was not make mistakes.
And he succeeded.
The Baltimore defense shutout four teams, limited five others to a touchdown or less, and ultimately crushed the Giants in the Super Bowl 34-7.
But that’s enough on the Ravens.
This is about Tony.
After his retirement he joined Fox Sports, in 2003, and was assigned to my group. Daryl Johnston, the former Cowboys fullback, was my partner in the booth, and Fox decided that Tony would be an ideal sideline reporter.
Foe one thing, the nicknames would work like a charm.
Siragusa’s nickname was “Goose”.
Johnston, was known as “Moose” when he blocked and occasionally carried the ball for the Troy Aikman Cowboys, which also starred Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.
So, in our openings before kickoff, I introduced “Moose” and “Goose”, and hopefully some viewers would smile, even before we actually said anything about the game.
The move was a grand experiment for our telecasts.
Up until that time, sideline reporters were manned (no pun intended), by women who would offer additional information about a player, or team, that would expand, and amplify our basic commentary.
The expert-analyst, standing by my side, would be exclusive in discussing strategy, and the why’s and how’s of what was going on in the game.
But now it would be different.
The sideline reporter would now be an ex-player who could offer his take on what he was seeing in the contest.
When you considered the fact that “Moose” was a former fullback, and “Goose” was an ex-defensive tackle, it made sense that two views on both sides of the ball were now available.
It is to the credit of Daryl Johnston, who remains a good friend, that he was welcoming to the new arrangement.
It obviously meant DJ’s comments weren’t the only analysis heard on the broadcast, but knowing Daryl’s character and temperament, his quick acceptance was not surprising.
Here’s what we got with “Goose”.
A robust personality, packed with humor, good will, and unpredictability.
Tony was an entertaining presence from the moment he arrived on a football weekend to the end.
He was a huge bundle of joy at around 350 pounds.
He was a happy man who had plenty of opinions, not only about football.
He was constantly kidding everyone on the crew and I would say most of his comments, would be censored, even by some of today’s standards.
Tony would arrive, if we were assigned to a game in the East, sometimes in a mini-bus, with an entourage from his neighborhood in New Jersey.
He went through the paces of our preparation fully.
We would watch practice and later talk to a few players and coaches.
Usually during practice he was off talking to players he knew.
It was all good.
After our visit with the home team, we would go back to a meeting room and do more homework.
Tony would take off with his buddies for parts unknown.
He would return to the hotel for our production meetings on Saturday night with dinner brought into our room.
As you would expect, he wouldn’t stay for the food.
He, and his friends would go elsewhere.
On game day, Tony’s assignment was to interject what he saw on the field, obviously focusing on the line play, the battles ensuing between the offensive and defensive fronts.
The charming thing about Tony Siragusa was that he was his own man. He was not the kind of TV analyst who looked at hours of tape, made calls to teams or players, and, to cut to the chase, do a considerable amount of homework.
He preferred to do his job by instinct.
In some ways, it was refreshing to hear that kind of approach by a commentator.
Frankly, many times it was hit or miss.
But it was “Goose”.
After a time, it was decided to keep his microphone open at all times, so he could interject his comments without being called upon.
I think that practice worked well with him.
Tony was not about any kind of structure.
Everybody understood and accepted it.
Eventually, Siragusa would be teamed with Kenny Albert and Daryl, and I believe that combination, taking into account the experience Tony had gained, proved even better.
I am grateful I had the opportunity to work with such a joyous man, especially being there at the start of his new career.
His popularity, and contagious personality, which enabled him to be cast in other television roles, was unique.
I may not recall any specific moment in any game, where the comments of Tony Siragusa would be etched in stone.
But that doesn’t matter.
I remember the man, the laughter, and the fun we all experienced, when he was around.
That’s why his passing at the incredible young age of 55, was sobering.
I could not imagine him ever silenced.
The “Goose” was one of a kind.