Alabama vs. Tennessee: Third Saturday in October even more of a family thing than usual

Jamie Squire

It won't be easy for Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri to play against his son Vinnie's Alabama Crimson Tide this week, but at least the Vols aren't playing Pitt!

With its weird geography and long history, the Third Saturday in October is one of those rivalries built to stir up inter-family bragging rights and sell some legitimately earned "House Divided" license plates. But no matter how intense factions of your family* get for Alabama-Tennessee, it's got nothing on the Sunseri line.

* Assuming you live in the Southeast, because every family around here has some Tennessee and some Alabama in it somewhere.

Here's Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, formerly of Alabama's coaching staff, holding back tears while talking about working to ruin the national title dreams of his son, 2011 SEC All-Freshman Tide safety Vinnie Sunseri, who currently leads all Bama defensive backs in tackles:

Let me just say this to everybody here: it's been very, very hard this whole week, especially for both of us to go and do what's gonna be done. He's done a great job of preparation, what he's done all the way up this year, but emotionally for the family it's been very tough. I didn't think it would be this hard, I didn't imagine it would be this hard, but it's very, very, very tough.

But we're both gonna be professionals about it, we're gonna do what we have to do, and we're gonna go out there and try and play our best football.

It's more about missing each other and seeing each other, because the family's extremely close. When we talk, it's more about his technique, how he's playing, asking how I'm doing. It has nothing to do with the game itself. Making sure he's feeling good, making sure he's healthy, making sure that I'm feeling good, making sure I'm healthy. That's basically what the conversations have been.

But, it's gonna be hard on Saturday night when that kid walks on the field.

As for his fortune that Vinnie plays safety while his other son, Tino Sunseri, plays quarterback at Pitt, "The greatest thing is that I have nothing to do to scheme against Vinnie." The coach indicated he'd have a very hard time putting together a game plan designed to take down his own son.

It's been hard on Mama Sunseri as well, he says. She's traveled to see all three of her designated favorite teams this year, but the coach doesn't even want her at the stadium on Saturday. He admits he won't be able to make that choice for her, of course.

And even though the two are on different sides of one of the SEC's biggest rivalries, Sunseri the younger says, "He talks to me about what I do wrong and what I do right. He watches me during games. He still coaches me. He can't help it."

The Iconic Families series is brought to you by New York Life. At New York Life, everything we do is to help Keep Good Going. Find out how to keep the good in your life going at

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