Sal Sunseri won two national championships as an assistant coach at Alabama, was an assistant coach for the Carolina Panthers when they came agonizingly close to winning a Super Bowl, and almost won a national championship as an All-American linebacker at the University of Pittsburgh.
So it's no wonder that he expects to succeed in his new venture as Tennessee's defensive coordinator. His confidence, which came through loud and clear when he met with local media last week, is 92 yards strong.
The number will resonate for years in SEC football. In an era overrun with offense, Sunseri was part of an Alabama defense that held LSU to 92 yards in the BCS national championship game.
The 21-0 victory was magnified by all the scoring outbursts that preceded it. A 45-38 game qualified as routine in a bowl season that produced occasional basketball scores and cost two defensive coordinators their jobs.
Yet in the 46-day, almost Super Bowl-like buildup to the national championship game, Sunseri became increasingly relaxed, so much so that his wife couldn't help but notice.
"My wife knew we were going to win by the way I was acting," said Sunseri, who served as an assistant head coach and linebackers coach at Alabama. "I wasn't hollering as much."
Sunseri's confidence stemmed from crisp practice and the overall thorough championship-game preparation, which included a word that his new defense is apt to hear repeatedly, "fundamentals."
Once the Tide reconditioned itself for football, fundamentals became the focal point for a team that lost to LSU 9-6 in the regular season.
"I don't care what level of football it is, you've got to be good coming off the football, striking with your hands and playing good fundamentals," Sunseri said. "Those first days
(of bowl practice) were all basic stuff. We went back to taking on blocks and pass drops.
"If you think about it, we really didn't change much from the first game to the second. It's just that they got the football in better situations than the first game. We had a pretty good scouting report and knew what was going on (for the rematch)."
That simple, huh? I was expecting to hear something more mysterious, even wondering if Alabama coach Nick Saban had placed spies at LSU practices or if the Tide defense was reading from the same wristband as LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson. Alabama's defense couldn't have been any more effective if it had infiltrated LSU's offensive huddle.
"Yeah," Sunseri said. "Well, that's what we do. We spend a lot of time in our preparation."
Sunseri's preparation for his first Tennessee season will have a strong pro influence, which would be expected from a coach who had a seven-year stint with the Panthers.
"If you want to be a great pass rusher, you've got to go get pass rushers in the National Football League ... and for the past four years I've always gotten the top 10 pass rushers and cut their tape up," he said. "The great pass rushers at Alabama right now have studied them."
Sunseri's preparation for his first season with the Vols will include NFL field trips as well as video work. He plans on going to the NFL Combine and visiting Denver Broncos coach John Fox, his friend and former boss.
Such NFL connections give a coach instant credibility with college players, who hope ultimately to be paid more than scholarship wages for their labor. But Sunseri has another credibility card to play with his new defense.
It's No. 92.