||HEADLINE NEWS - Features
Thursday - 5/10/2001
by Aaron Boulding
Written for NFLUTH.com
It's hard to believe that Tony Siragusa was ever little, but it's true. It's got to be, right? Before he became the 330-pound defensive line terror for the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens, little Tony was just another big kid smashing into teammates and opposition alike on the football fields of New Jersey.
What distinguishes Siragusa today, besides his massive physique, is his sense of humor and razor-sharp wit. With all of the funny stuff coming out of his mouth and his belly like St. Nick, Siragusa is downright jolly. It seems that before last year's Super Bowl run, before the talk-show appearances, and even before he became the clown prince of Baltimore, Siragusa was just the chubby kid having a ball on the football field. As is the case with so many NFL stars, it all started Back in the Day.
NFLUTH: There was something special about the first field you played on, wasn't there?
Tony Siragusa: It was a dirt hole really. There was nothing there. It was crazy because the field was right between the grammar school and the high school. When you were on the high school field, if you looked up, you saw a big water tower that said “Kennilworth.” I remember as a little kid, I used to want to go and climb the water tower and have everybody see me up on top of this big giant water tower. Now, I’m a little too heavy that I can’t really make it up there. So it’s still a dream. I always wanted to be a running back or wide receiver -- or even try out for quarterback. Always the chubby kid got put on the line. I guess that was me.
NFLUTH: Did you ever get a chance to score a touchdown?
TS: No. The closest I ever came was when I was in the NFL. That’s the closest I ever came against…as a matter of fact, last year I think I was the closest against Detroit. I picked up a fumble and landed on the one-yard line. Fell on the one-yard line really. Never really got a chance to run one in. I'm still waiting.
NFLUTH: Is there a game that sticks out?
TS: Oh, yeah. There was one play when I was a little kid that I do remember. We were playing against like a rival team. The kid was running towards the sideline. There was one coach I didn’t like, and I tackled the coach instead of the kid. That sort of sticks in my mind.
NFLUTH: What did you like best about playing football as a kid?
TS: I guess just being with all the other kids and being able to play. Being able to hit somebody without the police arresting me. That was just fun. We had a great time. All the other kids did it in town, so I figured I might as well do it. The worst part of it was going to practice. I always never liked practice. I always liked the game on Sunday, but I never liked practice.
NFLUTH: Were you always a leader on the team?
TS: I was always pretty much the biggest kid in my age group. So they always tried to bump me up. I used to fight to stay down in the pee-wees and the midgets. They always wanted to put me with the big team because I was a bigger kid. I think I grew up faster just being with the older kids and getting beat up all the time. Having fun and just being able to hit bigger kids.
NFLUTH: What about backyard football?
TS: Oh, yeah. We had one guy that lived across the street from us that used to…the ball used to land on his lawn. He always used to try and keep it. We always used to get it back from him. He really didn’t like us playing too much. Like I said, my mother didn’t appreciate it too much when we were at the kitchen table. My brother would throw a meatball, and I’d go diving for it and wreck the whole table. We’d get punished a lot, but we had a lot of fun.
NFLUTH: Your favorite player growing up?
TS: I guess it was not really a football player because I didn’t really know much about football. I always liked the name Jack Youngblood. Just for some reason. I guess they were in the playoffs. Used to play for the Rams. Just liked that name. I always wanted to change my name. My mother would never let me change my name when I was a kid. I wanted to be Tony Youngblood. Also we had the Giants there. Lawrence Taylor was a big influence, I guess, because he was always the guy who was going in and getting the qbs and sacking people and having fun. It looked like he was having the most fun out there. So I guess all the kids wanted to be #56. Unfortunately, I never got that number.
NFLUTH: Is there one particular moment that sums up your days of youth football?
TS:Yeah. I think when I was in high school, my last down that we played our last game, all my friends got together. We told a couple of guys to get off the field. We had all my friends on the field at one time. “Alright, this play we’re just going to go crazy.” We all got together and we promised to remember this one moment. We broke the huddle on defense. We went after the quarterback and we got a sack. There was like five of us on the quarterback at one time. I said, “Man, we should’ve done that more often, maybe we would’ve won a couple more games.”