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Tony Siragusa, former Ravens star and Fox Sports personality, dies aged 55

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Tony Siragusa, a Super Bowl-winning NFL defensive tackle and television personality whose massive physique was matched by his oversized public personality, has died at the age of 55.

The Baltimore Ravens, for whom he played from 1997 to 2001, said he died “unexpectedly” on Wednesday morning. A cause of death was not immediately announced.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said he and his wife were “stunned and heartbroken” at the news of Siragusa’s death, saying in a statement: “He was a special person and clearly one of the most beloved players in Ravens history.

“Our deepest prayers and condolences go out to Kathy, their three children and the rest of the Siragusa family,” Bisciotti added. “This is an incredibly sad day for the Baltimore Ravens. We appreciate everyone who has expressed their support for our players, coaches and staff.”

Earlier Wednesday, the Ravens shared the news of the death of 26-year-old linebacker Jaylon Ferguson. A cause of death in his case was not yet known.

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, with whose team Siragusa spent his first seven years in the NFL, had confirmed reports of Siragusa’s death that surfaced Wednesday afternoon.

“My heart is broken, like all Colts Nation,” Irsay said tweeted.

Nicknamed “Goose,” Siragusa rose to national fame after leaving the Colts and joining the Ravens in 1997. A 6ft 3, 330lb nose tackle who clogged opposing lanes, he was a key figure in a record-breaking defense that helped the 2000 Ravens win Super Bowl XXXV. After proving to be one of the most entertaining characters during the pre-Super Bowl media day, Siragusa delivered a star performance a few months later when Baltimore appeared on the first season of HBO’s Hard Knocks.

“There was nobody like Goose — a warrior on the field and a team leader with a generous, generous heart who has helped teammates and the community more than most people know,” said former Ravens coach Brian Billick. “We wouldn’t have won the Super Bowl without him.”

Former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis said Wednesday he was glad he, Siragusa and other members of the 2000 championship team “had a chance to be together one last time” at a celebration of that triumphant team earlier this year.

“Goose was one of the humblest and funniest guys I knew,” Lewis said in a statement. “I remember his locker was next to mine on match day. He was never disturbed and enjoyed life. While I had butterflies in my stomach, he cracked jokes and pumped me up at the same time. … He will be truly missed.”

A few years after his playing career ended after the 2001 season, Siragusa was hired as an NFL sideline reporter for Fox Sports. He brought a light note to the role until he and the network split in 2016.

A native of New Jersey, Siragusa also appeared as a supporting character on the HBO hit series The Sopranos and starred in Spike Lee’s 2002 film 25th Hour.

In addition to playing on his high school football team, for which he punched and played on the defensive line, Siragusa was a standout wrestler, winning a New Jersey state title in 1985. He went on to play football at the University of Pittsburgh because: as he explained (about the Panthers), “If I wanted to learn a school song, I would have gone to Notre Dame or Penn State. I want to kill people on the soccer field. That’s why I came to Pitt.”

“Tony really was bigger than life, on and off the field,” said Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi. “His life after football has taken him to so many places but he has never forgotten Pitt. We could always count on him to send our boys the best recorded pep talk before our biggest games. ‘The Goose’ leaves a great legacy and will be sorely missed.”

Knee injuries hampered Siragusa’s last two seasons with Pitt, and he was undrafted by the NFL in 1990 before signing with the Colts as a free agent. He then played 12 seasons at Indianapolis and Baltimore.

“That’s a tough question,” said former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, another member of the team’s dominant defense in 2000. “I love Goose like a brother. From the day we met I knew life was different. I knew he was someone who would change my life forever. He was a unique person who made you feel important and special. You can never replace a man like that.”

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