Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Counting down the top Pitt football players of the last 40 years- No.21 Sal Sunseri

I will be counting down my own list of the top 50 Pitt football players since 1972.  I have spent time doing a lot of research and talking to a lot of people when formulating this list, but ultimately it is MY opinion.  The great thing about lists like this is that people will disagree, and feel free to, but just remember that there is no right answer so there's no need to go crazy if you do disagree.  I will post this same intro with all 50 bios because I know the one time I don't, people will complain about not knowing what criteria I used.  I will add at least one a day, maybe two.  

My criteria for selecting the order is as follows:

1.  Productivity.
2.  Talent.
3.  Place in program history.
4.  Only the player's careers while at Pitt are considered, not their NFL careers. 
5.  No current players.

21.  Sal Sunseri (1978-81)-  If this list was weighted towards pure talent then Sunseri would not even be in the top 50.  But this list considers productivity and winning, and that's where the linebacker comes in.

A former walk-on from Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Sunseri was the heart and soul of some of the best defenses in college football history.  In fact, in Sunseri's junior and senior seasons the Panthers were the No.1 defense in the country.  And in his three years as a starter, the Panthers finished with a 33-3 record.

Sunseri was a tackling machine who could also play against the pass, as evidenced by his 6 combined interceptions in his last two seasons.  But the carefree and fun loving linebacker was one of the best leaders in school history.  Jackie Sherrill called him the most inspirational player he's ever been around. He even helped out Pitt's greatest defensive player ever, Hugh Green, who lived with Sunseri's family when he played at Pitt.

After his senior season in which he was named a consensus first team All-American, Sunseri was taken in the 10th round by the Steelers.  However, he blew his knee out in his first training camp and was out of the league.  He has, however, become one of the top assistants in college football and is currently the defensive coordinator at Tennessee.


  1. ...and will be interviewed in 2014 for the vacant head coaching position at his alma mater.

  2. OK top 20 is probably a good time to try this. My attempt to guess the remaining top 20. I'm still working on the ordering a little bit...

    1 Dorsett, Tony RB
    2 Green, Hugh DE
    3 Fitzgerald, Larry WR
    4 Fralic, Bill OL
    5 May, Mark OL
    6 Heyward, Ironhead RB
    7 Marino, Dan QB
    8 McCoy, Shady RB
    9 Bryant, Antonio WR
    10 Jackson, Ricky DE
    11 Covert, Jimbo OL
    12 Cavanaugh, Matt QB
    13 Gilbert, Sean DT
    14 Holloway, Randy DT
    15 Romano, Al DT
    16 Burley, Gary DT
    17 Jury, Bob S
    18 Dawkins, Julius WR
    19 Maas, Bill DT
    20 Woods, Tony DE

    Great job on the list by the way. Love some of the obscure tidbits you are providing on the players. Very well done Doke.

    1. Sean Gilbert played in just 18 games, and only two (both against Penn St.) would somebody call an excellent game. So he's not on my list. Neither is Julius Dawkins. I know that will surprise a lot of people because he was a first team All-American, but he had one year when he was lucky enough for Dan Marino to throw 16 touchdown passes to him. Even in that year he didn't catch a lot of passes. In his freshman and sophomore years he did nothing, and as a senior he was such a disappointment that many of this teammates called him out in the media. So needless to say he's not on my list either.

    2. Imma Man! Im 40!July 24, 2012 at 7:17 PM

      IMHO you have Marino ranked way too low. His junior year was off the hizzle. I'd have him #3 with a bullet.

    3. He had 23 interceptions, too.

    4. To remind some of you...
      Marino use to change the plays Sherril would call..
      drove him nuts..
      changed run plays to pass plays...
      Sherril lost control of Marino...
      the best thing that happen to Marino was he was drafted by Miami... no BS Shula.. he was the 6th QB taken in the draft because of his inability to listen to coaches, etc.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Imma Man! Im 40!July 24, 2012 at 7:13 PM

    Evidently his son Tino inherited his skill set & drive from his mother's side....

    1. Foxy Roxy was a gymnist at Pitt...
      I guess that may make Tino good at the balance bar...

  4. Wow never realized Gilbert played that few games for Pitt. I'm partial to Gilbert because I watched him play quite a bit in high school and he was partly the reason I became a Pitt fan (Sean miller had some input on that too lol). So who else ... Randy Dixon, mark stepnoski ...

    1. As far as pure talent, Gilbert was in the top 10. He was a physical freak. But he definitely didn't have the career that many expected of him.

  5. btw... Sunseri threw some good parties over at Bruce Hall... from what I remember.. lol

  6. This list and the bloggers input has been great. Better than great, has taken my mind of the other topic, and has brought back great memories of the past. Thank you Mr Dokish. On a side note, I was hoping that our fans wouldn't take a pot shot on this one?

  7. Whats everyone think the over/under of PSU recruits and players we land? I say 5. I think theres going to be a lot of competition out there.

    1. I dont even know if 5 will transfer. They have players on record saying the core guys will return and it seems like the more dirt that comes out, the stronger psu unites (and isolates itself from the real world)

    2. Several have already said they are transfering... low on the depth chart (or frosh or soph)...

      I say 15 current PSU players will transfer...
      I say Pitt will get 1...
      Please note several wpial players at PSU already said they are staying at PSU...

      Of the 12 (as of today) PSU commits... probably will lose 4... of which 1 is Johnson..
      Pitt will land Johnson... that is it.

  8. I don't think Pitt is going to land Johnson, it appears his family has major concerns regarding Pitt's campus and safety.

    1. I took my 17 yr old daughter there for a college visit/tour. The size and staffing of the police is good and and the emergency call boxes are everywhere.

      Sounds more like they have concerns about Dorian.

      Here's some really good and free advice:

      - if you crave an O-dog, have one for lunch
      - when leaving the UPMC facility, take a right hand turn onto the Hot metal Bridge. Avoid Carson St. after dark.
      - be in your dorm room by midnight

      In short, don't look for trouble and you will be amazed how safe Oakland can be.

    2. Oakland is VERY safe...
      but over the past 6 months...
      - the shooting at the pysch hospital... stone's throw from the Pete.
      - all the bomb threats...
      that may be concerting... but there are lunatics everywhere.. look at Denver.. who would have thought a movie theater.

    3. Exactly.

      Chas at Pitt Blather has a good take on the PSU defections... or lack thereof. 15 looks high for transfers. O'Brien is a solid guy and those kids have a "us vs the world" view now. I would not be surprised if they lose less than 5. The current verbal commits are another matter.