Sal Sunseri: Old Player of the Week

Sal Sunseri is the kind of guy a fan like me has to pull for. As a player, he was an underdog and brought out the best in himself and those around him. Now, as a coach, he is still doing that as the Defensive End leader for the Florida State Seminoles just as he did at Alabama and for the Carolina Panthers. He’s a guy that I pull for.


I’ve been doing this blog for just over 3 months and Sal Sunseri is an interview I have tried to get several times with no luck. No problem, I don’t hold it against the man. He’s pretty busy trying to win another national championship with the Florida State Seminoles.


While he was a good football player, Sunseri wasn’t even the best guy on his own high school team, Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh. That honor would, no doubt, have to go to Hall of Fame QB, Dan Marino. Marino was younger than Sunseri but Marino was the QB when Sunseri was a senior.

Marino was obviously the top player ever at Central Catholic, the top Quarterback ever at Pitt and maybe one of the NFL’s all time greatest QBs.


Marino was highly recruited but he lived within walking distance of the Pittsburgh campus and made things easy on everybody and decided to stay home.

Teammate, Sunseri, was not highly recruited. I would have loved to have heard back from Florida State and Sal Sunseri so that I could have found out more personal info on him. But, I decided to not let anything hold me back from what I want to accomplish.


Sunseri was a walk-on Football player at Pitt in 1978. He would wind up becoming a 3 year starter for the Pitt Panthers. But, in 1980 he made some All-American teams. In 1981, he was a consensus All-American.


Some other players on those All-American teams were like household names or a who’s who in the history of the game of football. Lawrence Taylor and Mike Singletary would make everybody’s all time list and Johnie Cooks of Mississippi State was not far behind.


Laugh at Pitt, if you like, but those Pitt Panthers were much different than the teams of today. Pitt led the country in defense in 1980 and 1981 and Sunseri was one of their top players. 23 guys from the 1980 Pitt Panther football team went on to start in the NFL.  Bobby Bowden, Florida State’s legendary coach and a man that should know, has called the 1980 Pitt Panthers the best college football team he had ever seen.


Sunseri was a 10th round draft choice of the local Pittsburgh Steelers, but injured his knee extremely badly during training camp and never played in the NFL.


He had gone from a player nobody wanted to a 3 year starter on an outstanding team and one of it’s top players.


As good as Sal Sunseri was as a player, he may be even better as a coach. He’s never been a head coach other than 1 game in which he served as an interim coach. But, he has been a top defensive coach for years.

Tennessee fans may disagree because the Vols were horrible when he was the Defensive coordinator  for them in 2012. But, that’s more of a Tennessee and Dooley mess and not Sunseri.


He is an excellent Defensive End or Linebacker coach and has been part of 3 out of the last 5 national championships.



Sal Sunseri is the father of former Pitt QB, Tino Sunseri and former Alabama DB, Vinnie Sunseri.




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