Sal Sunseri sounded relieved when the conversation turned to his Tennessee "kids" Wednesday.
The ones who have been struggling to get stops at the right time. The ones who have issues to fix before they face No. 1 Alabama on Saturday night.
The hard part of the interview was over, the part talking about his real kids.
For the first time I can recall, a Tennessee coach will be across the field from his son at Neyland Stadium.
Sal Sunseri coordinates Tennessee's defense. Vinnie Sunseri plays safety for the top-ranked defense in America.
"It's gonna be hard on Saturday night when that kid walks on the field, when he hugs me,'' Sunseri said.
The emotion was audible in Sunseri's voice several times Wednesday morning. This is his first year at UT. He left Alabama and Vinnie to take on a tough job for Derek Dooley.
"It's hard any time you, as a father, can't be there with your kids and support your kids the way you want to,'' he said, sounding like a man carrying a heavy burden.
He wasn't just thinking of Vinnie.
Santino "Tino" Sunseri is a senior quarterback at Pittsburgh, a third-year starter who has passed for more than 6,000 yards in his career.
Pitt is Sal's alma mater. He was an All-America linebacker in 1981. That's where he met Roxann, a Pitt gymnast who became the mother of four Sunseri children.
The youngest, Ashlyn, is a freshman on UT's volleyball team. The oldest is Jaclyn, 25.
Tino finished high school in Pittsburgh, the Sunseri family home, while Sal worked for the Carolina Panthers, then took a job at Alabama in 2009.
What with his own schedule, Sal said he's seen Tino play only twice in person.
At least Saturday night he won't be scheming how to make Vinnie's night miserable. But Tino's a quarterback. A Tennessee-Pitt matchup would be Sal's worst nightmare.
"That would be extremely, extremely tough,'' Sunseri said, pondering the possibility. "I'd have to make a decision on that.''
The main reason Vinnie signed at Alabama was his dad. Now his dad's gone. It didn't really hit Vinnie in the face, he said, until a few minutes after the Missouri game last Saturday night when coach Nick Saban first mentioned it was Tennessee week.
Tuesday, Vinnie talked about it.
"Hard, hard, hard, hard,'' he said.
"I knew I'd be playing against an offense and my dad coaches defense, but to be going against the person I love most in this world is really tough.''
The person it's probably toughest on is Roxann.
Two weeks ago, both Alabama and UT had an open date so Vinnie came to Knoxville. Most of the family under one roof, watching Tino and Pitt play on TV. Everybody cheering for the same team.
"I'd never witnessed it before,'' Vinnie said. "She becomes a wreck.''
That was just Pitt. Saturday will be a next-level wreck.
"She's trying to be a wife, she's trying to be a mother,'' Sal said. "She's trying to be strong. She's trying to be supportive both ways, but it's tough.''
Roxann probably will stay home and watch on TV. Tino has an afternoon game at Buffalo. He might get home in time to watch the second half.
At Neyland Stadium, nobody will be pulling any punches.
Vinnie will do everything in his power to keep Tennessee out of the end zone, to keep the Crimson Tide rolling toward another national title.
And across the field, Sal will be bleeding inside for all his kids. For the ones in orange with a tough job to do. And especially for that one kid on the other sideline.
When it's over, there will be an emotional embrace.
"It's competition,'' Vinnie said, "but at the end of the day, we're family. That's the strongest thing.''