Vinnie Sunseri was my favorite Bama player since Javier Arenas.
There, I said it.
I loved the kid. He played with the kind of heart I would’ve wanted to possess if I could swap places with him.
Not the most talented or fastest on the field, Sunseri played his days at Alabama with an aggressive toughness that made you want to watch.
That said, when you started listing prospects on Bama’s team for future NFL drafts, Sunseri’s name really never made the conversation. One could see Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, obviously. And, years ahead of time, even Landon Collins.
But Vinnie Sunseri was the kind of player I loved rooting for other reasons. He was the Rocky Balboa of college football players. Much further along than “Rudy,” but still of that ilk. Just sheer toughness with cleats on. Pluck and grit that would’ve made the writer of “Yea, Alabama” smile.
But NFL ready? Right now? Hardly.
So when his name made the final list of underclassmen declaring for the draft, like so many, I had to scratch my head. What would cause this young man, recovering from a torn ACL the 7th game of last season, to forego his final year at Alabama and throw his name in preverbial NFL hat?
The NFL draft is risky, whether you go early or stay and play your last year. There are much more talented players than Vinnie Sunseri that have declared and gone undrafted. Many more who sign as a free agent, yet get cut before the first game.
I’m afraid this is where we’ll re-visit Vinnie in a few months. And to me, that’s a tragedy.
So what made him leave? There has been some turnover at the Capstone, with some coaches coming and others going, but not the kind that suggests major upheaval behind the scenes. Amid Bama’s three recent national title runs, coaching changes took place, and early declarees said goodbye to Tuscaloosa.
But this year’s changes didn’t necessarily come at his position. DL coach? Sure. Offensive coordinator? That’s well known. But Kirby Smart remains, as does Nick Saban, the backbone of the defensive side of the ball. Defensive backs coach Greg Brown is thought to be stepping down after an experiment that didn’t work this season, but only to make way for former defensive coordinator Kevin Steele to take the field with the team again as a positions coach.
So did Sal Sunseri, the younger Sunseri’s father and former member of the Tide coaching staff, not see eye-to-eye with his former boss? Was there hurt feelings over playing time? Was there discontent on having to play special teams, where the injury eventually took place?
Or did Vinnie, after a few drinks, believe one of his boys one night out on the town, chiming that he was NFL ready right now? Despite being a step slow and struggling in coverage his whole career. I mean, do you ever, in a million years, think of Vinnie Sunseri close to the regard of a Richard Sherman? Michael Crabtree would abuse Vinnie Sunseri and tell him to like it.
Who knows, and until Vinnie speaks, we may never know. One thing is for sure. Whoever gave him the word he’s ready for the next level offered some bad advice. The next time we see Vinnie Sunseri in a uni will either be on an NFL practice squad, in Canada, or much more likely, in a coach’s shirt somewhere as a GA.
Vinnie Sunseri has played his last down of football. I’m all for a player coming out early when money is on the table. But instead, Vinnie is walking away from whatever he could’ve garnered with another year of preparation, and proving his knee is ready to go.
I hope I am wrong about the guy and his decision. I was about Bama’s Kareem Jackson when he came out early after 2009. But Vinnie Sunseri is no Kareem Jackson.
Alabama football will go on without Vinnie Sunseri. There is a wealth of talent there, and more on the way. But Vinnie Sunseri’s career will not go on without Alabama football. And for me, and Vinnie, that’s just sad.