Tony Siragusa isn't the prettiest of men. The former Baltimore Raven played the thankless role of a 6-foot-3, 330-pound steel drum, crashing the line over and over, so teammates could sack the quarterback — and reap the glory.
But "Goose" was a member of the team that won Super Bowl XXXV, and the gregarious giant's profile has grown exponentially since that January day in 2001. He's a Fox-TV sideline reporter, host of a home improvement show and has been cast in "The Sopranos" and the film "25th Hour."
In that same Super Bowl, Greenbelt native and University of Maryland star Jermaine Lewis was the spark that lit victory cigars, returning a kickoff for a momentous touchdown. But he only played one more season for the Ravens and was out of the NFL a few years later. Today, having had some brushes with the law, he regrets not being able to fully capitalize on the big victory.
Winning the Super Bowl is a huge achievement — a championship in the nation's most popular sport, on television's most-watched program. As Siragusa and other members of the Ravens 2000-2001 team can attest, winning at such a relatively young age can set up a player for life. Nearly the entire team, except for Ray Lewis and at least one other player, has retired and moved on to other ventures, in some cases helped by championship credentials.
But a Super Bowl ring is no guarantee of success beyond football. Some players say the championship can be unsatisfying because it's hard to follow and drains the satisfaction from other accomplishments. Others, including Jermaine Lewis and Jamal Lewis, have battled through years of business failures and legal problems.
"I'll tell you this," said former Raven Peter Boulware, a linebacker for the Super Bowl champions, "it ruins you for anything else in football. Anything less than that is a disappointing season."
With a victory Sunday, the current group of Ravens will face similar challenges. From star quarterback Joe Flacco to little-known players, they will forever have "Super Bowl Champion" precede their names during introductions. Some will be offered transcendent opportunities in business deals, television commercials and media careers.
"The Super Bowl is something you always dream of as a youngster," Boulware said. "It's kind of like winning the lottery."
What happens next is up to the player.
Boulware, 38, lives in Tallahassee, Fla., where he was a standout at Florida State University. In 2007, he ran for a seat in the Florida legislature but lost by a few hundred votes. He went on to serve on the state school board and now runs a nonprofit K-8 school. He also co-owns a Toyota dealership.
During his political campaign, many of his commercials referred to his successes on the field, underscoring how he believed he could lead government. But name recognition wasn't the only thing a Super Bowl gave him.
He learned that hard work alone cannot bring great success. Outside forces are also in play, he said. Teammates have to be in sync. Everything has to click. Knowing that helps him deal with disappointments.
"It just represents the way life is," Boulware said. "To make it on top, you have to have a lot of fortune and a lot of things go right with you, coupled with a lot of work and dedication."
Sam Gash, the former Ravens fullback, pulls out his championship ring from a drawer to look at more often as the years pass. Gash, 43, was not re-signed as a Detroit Lions assistant coach this year, and the ring reminds him that he had the qualities needed to reach the highest top.
"It validates you as a player because you know that you are championship-worthy," Gash said, "and you understand what it takes to prepare."
The win was an important piece in tackle Jonathan Ogden's illustrious career, which the Pro Football Hall of Fame was expected to recognize on Saturday with the announcement of his induction.
But outside of football, the championship hasn't changed his life.
"I can't say it made a big difference either way. I mean, it doesn't hurt," said Ogden, 38. "I'm not a big put-myself-out-there kind of guy. It definitely opened some doors as far as just being known outside of Baltimore."
Still, for a charismatic player like Siragusa, Super Bowl media day gave him the exposure that helped him launch a successful career. "Tony was a pretty well-known guy but not like he was after the Super Bowl," said Matt Stover, the kicker on the 2000-2001 team.
Stover, 45, said being a champion doesn't necessarily translate into financial security. He worked as an NFL ambassador this fall, traveling around the country, telling collegiate players that they need to plan for life after football.