Sal Sunseri grew up in Pittsburgh, but he grew up watching the Raiders because his Pittsburgh Steelers were always meeting the Raiders in the playoffs. He understood the greatness of the Silver and Black because the team from Oakland was consistently keeping his Steelers from the Super Bowl.
Understanding the history of the Oakland Raiders gives the team's new linebackers coach a great deal of pride stepping foot in this building. "It means a lot. It means a lot of great pride," said Coach Sunseri. "You sit back and look at the tradition. You have Jim Otto, Fred Biletnikoff, there's so many great players that have come out of here. There's a lot of pride here."
Watching the Raiders win Super Bowls increases Coach Sunseri's desire to bring that excellence back to Oakland. "They've won three Super Bowls. They have a chance, I believe, to get this thing going back to where we need to go," he said. "There's a great tradition here. There's great people here and we just have to go out and put it on the field."
But his biggest draw to the Raiders? "Jack Del Rio - having a chance to work with coach because I had the experience to work for him for one year at the Carolina Panthers," said Coach Sunseri. "I think the biggest thing that he has an uncanny ability to motivate you as a coach. He motivates the players. He puts it in a manner where it's not derogatory towards them. He challenges them mentally and physically, and he gets results."
Coach Sunseri has an extensive coaching background, spending time in both college and professional football. He's learned under Nick Saban at Alabama and he recently won a National Championship with Florida State.
The biggest inspiration in his coaching career came before his coaching days, however, when he was a player at the University of Pittsburgh. "Foge Fazio – he was my position coach, he was the defensive coordinator and eventually became the head coach - I'd die for him to this day. Unfortunately, he passed away, but he's been really, really influential in my coaching career."
Between Fazio and the other coaches that have played a role in his career, Coach Sunseri has taken their lessons and developed his own style of coaching. "I would describe my coaching style as enthusiastic, energetic, someone that's going to always want his players to bring toughness, discipline, production to the game," he explained. "I think like anything else I love when my guys go out there and they make plays. This game is about productivity and when you're producing, you're making plays. I want them to understand that I'm going to care about them, I'm going to treat them like a man, they're going to act like men and they're going to be accountable, dependable guys on the field."
Coach Sunseri sees potential in the linebacking corps he will be working with in 2015. "I think the thing is I see some guys that, number one, have talent. Number two, they bring energy. Number three, they can make plays. When you've got guys that can make plays out there, you're excited to go out there and put them in a position where they can make plays," said Coach Sunseri. "Being with Coach Del Rio and being with Ken [Norton, Jr.], we're going to let these guys go play football, let them play fast and let them do what they need to do and that's go out there and play great defense. They're going to be tough. They're going to be disciplined and they're going to finish."
He expects a lot out of his players and plans to get the best out of his guys. "This is your livelihood," Coach Sunseri said. "This is a chance for you to go out and show people what you're all about, and that's what I'm about. I'm about winners. I'm about preparers. I'm about accountability and dependability."
And, at the end of the day, he wants to give the fans a reason to be excited. "The energy, what [the fans] want, what they're expecting, to me, that's football," said Coach Sunseri. "They want to be intimidating; they want to be winners."
Coach Sunseri is ready and fired up to be a member of the Silver and Black. "Having a chance to coach for the Raiders, be a part of it, I'm really, really excited."