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The sudden passing of former Brearley, Pitt and NFL star Tony Siragusa has stunned many including former Pitt teammate and a fellow Brearley graduate Scott Miller, who is the longtime coach of the football team at the Kenilworrth-based school. (Photos are by Gene Nann and courtesy of The Pittsbugh Post Gazette, Baltimore Beatdown, The Mirror & SI)

Brearley Coach Trying To Grasp
Passing Of The Colorful Siragusa

By JR Parachini

Larger than life growing up in a town too small to measure up to the size of the man.

That was Tony Siragusa, always full of zest in the most gregarious fashion, as he put Kenilworth, New Jersey on the map.

To the absolute shock of so many dear to him Siragusa passed away in his sleep on Wednesday, June 22, just a little over one month after he turned age 55.

"I'm still not grasping this," said Scott Miller, Brearley's athletic director and veteran head footall coach. "This is just very sad,"

Miller, who just turned 53 in April, graduated from Brearley two years after Siragusa did and then played his college ball at the University of Pittsburgh with him for two years.

Siragusa was a star athlete in high school at Brearley and was one of the top football players not only in Union County but throughout all of the Garden State. He was also a pretty fair wrestler as evidenced by him winning the heavyweight state championship his senior year in 1985.

Siragusa graduated from Brearley in 1985 and Miller in 1987. Miller remembered that Siragusa lost his father at a young age.

In a 2012 interview with Howard Stern, Siragusa said his father (Peter) died of a heart attack when he was 48 and passed away in his presence. Siragusa told Stern that heart disease runs in his family.

"His father did a lot for the town of Kenilworth," said Miller, who has been the head football coach at Brearley now since 2002.

Miller said that he had not seen Siragusa as much lately as he had in the past.

His nephew Peter Siragusa played for Miller on Brearley's 2019 team that went 8-2 and made the North 2, Group 1 playoffs.

"We had not talked in a year or so," Miller said.

Siragusa played at Pitt from 1986-1989 after red-shirting in 1985. Miller red-shirted in 1987 and then played at Pitt from 1988-1991.

"Tony played on defense and I was on offense," Miller said. "We were not in any meetings together, but we did play together for two years. There were definitely a lot of fond memories playing college football with him."

What Siragusa meant to the town of Kenilworth will always be felt somehow, whether by an athletic endeavor or just his name attached to the small part of Union County that stretches from one end of Michigan Avenue to the next.

"Growing up in a small town like Kenilworth, Tony, like some others, was able to bring national attention to it through athletics," Miller said. "In a town like this you know everybody. Even if you were a couple of years ahead of someone or behind them, you still hung out and new their families well."

Siragusa's younger brother Elio graduated two years after Miller in 1989, according to Miller and older brother Peter was class of 1982.

"There was a bond as teammates and beyond in the community," Miller said. "Kenilworth was such a great place to grow up in when I was a kid."

Miller said of the memories of his time spent with Siragusa, "there were a lot of them; one doesn't really stick out.

"He was just a great guy. He was a ballbuster at times and there were pranks and jokes, but he cared about people.

"When he was around, he brightened things up and made things livelier. He had a way that made people smile and laugh. He was definitely a good person to be around."

After a highly-productive 12-year NFL career that included seven with the Indianapolis Colts and his last five with the Baltimore Ravens, "The Goose"- as he was known to football fans for the way his 300-pound plus body flapped his arms after making a big tackle - remained close to the gridiron as an NFL field reporter for Fox Sports.

"He had that kind of personality," Miller said. "He said things that were goofy sometimes and he didn't care what people thought. He definitely added some flavor."

Siragusa was a key member, on the defensive line, of one of the best one-year defenses in the NFL, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. That team, as a wild card in the AFC playoffs, went on to win the Super Bowl in dominating fashion over the New York Giants 34-7.

"Tony, as an NFL player, was in the right place at the right time," Miller said. "He found organizations that he fit in."

Undrafted in 1990, Siragusa went on to garner 22 sacks and in 169 games was credited with 487 solo tackles and five forced fumbles.

"Tony was a run-stopper before they became popular," Miller said. "He clogged the middle.

"He was athletic growing up and knee injuries hurt his prospects of being drafted. He was a solid player on every level he participated in.

"Ray Lewis doesn't have as many tackles as he did if Tony wasn't there to eat up a lot of space in the middle."

Siragusa played for head coach Brian Billick when he was with the Ravens. Billick never took Siragusa's impact for granted.

"There was no one like Goose - a warrior on the field and a team unifier with a giving, generous heart who helped teammates and the community more than most people know," Billick said. "We would not have won the Super Bowl without him.

"This is such stunning, sad news."

Brearley, at one time going back to the 1980s and 90s, was known for having parades after each home football victory, led by head coach Bob Taylor, who guided Bears to four North 2, Group 1 sectional state championships. Siragusa just missed playing on the 1981 championship team his freshman year and then Brearley won state championships again in 1985 and 1986, the first two years after he graduated.

However, there was a parade in Kenilworth for Siragusa after he finally won a championship with the Ravens.

"To be gone at such a young age, this is still just so hard to grasp," Miller said.

Coach Pat Worked With Siragusa On His Kicking In High School

Longtime statewide kicking coach Pat Sempier, now in his 63rd year of working with high school kickers, said he coached Sirgausa for four years when the 'Goose' was a top scholastic kicker and punter at Brearley.

"I worked with Tony every chance I could during his four years at Kenilworth and he was a very good placekicker and punter," said Sempier. "One time I was with him on the field and someone came over to ask who I was and Tony said, 'He's my kicking coach. When he's here I do what he says. When he's not, I do what I want!'

"Tony had such a great sense of humor and we remained good friends from that point on. I also remember one time when he was on TV for FOX after his playing days and he was interviewing someone when he said how good a kicker he was in high school and he then proceeded to approach the ball with his head down, which was the right way, and did a nice job kicking the ball.

"Tony was one of the great ones that I worked with and a fantastic person and I've been so fortunate to coach and get to know so many terrific kickers through the years."

Follow JR Parachini on Twitter @parachini_jr  

Brearley coach Scott Miller, who was a teammate of Tony Siragusa at Pitt, is stunned by the sudden passing of one of Kenilworth's finest sons. Siragusa, the colorful former NFL nose tackle and NFL on FOX sideline reporter, is seen in bottom photo with another Union County product, comedian Artie Lange, who is a former baseball standout for Farmers.


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