Sunseri's stacked résumé sticks out

Tennessee football will have a different look when the Volunteers kick off against NC State on Aug. 31. Sign in or subscribe now to read about one of the many reasons why.

Sal Sunseri knows success.

Tennessee's new defensive coordinator has won two national titles, been to a Super Bowl and won awards for his recruiting. He's coached All-Pro players, Pro Bowl players and All-Americans.

In three seasons helping coach Alabama's defense, seven of his players were drafted to the NFL while this past year's team has a projected seven additional draftees. And when Sunseri coached defensive line with the Carolina Panthers, his players had over 10 combined Pro Bowl appearances.

Sunseri is anything but shy about his tremendous respect for the NFL and its players and coaches. 

Even after winning two titles at Alabama in three years, Sunseri still claims that, "The greatest thing that ever happened to me was being with John Fox in the National Football League."

Sunseri said he will be taking the Tennessee defense on some field trips this spring because in his opinion, you have to study the best to become the best.

Julius Peppers is among the elite defensive linemen that have learned under Sunseri.
(Getty Images)
"If you want to be a great pass rusher, you've got to go get pass rushers in the National Football League and see what they're doing. And for the past four years, I've always gotten the top 10 pass rushers and cut their tape up. If you want to be a great corner, you better go get Revis's tape and watch how he does his technique."

"We're going to go out with John Fox and see (the Denver Broncos) on defense. We're going to go visit other places. These kids love to see pro athletes doing what they're doing and trying to simulate them," he added.

Sunseri's road to the NFL and eventually Tennessee began in 1985 at the University of Pittsburgh where he was his alma mater's defensive line and linebackers coach.

After short stays at Iowa Wesleyan, Illinois State, Louisville and Alabama A&M, Sunseri became the linebackers and special teams coach at LSU, joining Nick Saban and Derek Dooley. His next stop was Michigan State before staying with the Carolina Panthers.

From 2002-08, he coached a remarkable defensive line that included Kris Jenkins and Julius Peppers. He sent at least one defensive lineman to the Pro Bowl in 5 of his 6 seasons with Carolina.

At Alabama, he produced college athletes who turned into household names overnight.

Now Sunseri has a contract for three years with Tennessee. He has already started thinking about how he will develop the defensive unit he is inheriting.

"You can have all the talent in the world, but if you're not developing them fundamentally and playing with passion, playing with toughness, it doesn't matter," he said.

If you're wondering what you can expect from his defenses at Neyland Stadium on Saturdays in the fall, Sunseri made it clear what he expects.

"I want to put a product on the field that everybody's going to come to this stadium and they're going to say these guys are playing hard, they're playing reckless, they're giving their bodies up for this university and they're making plays." 

Click on the video below to hear more from Sunseri:


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