TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Former Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri said his decision to bolt for the NFL early wasn't an easy one.
Speaking with reporters at Alabama's second pro day, Sunseri said conversations with Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban on whether he should leave school early "went down to the wire." While Sunseri wouldn't reveal the details of his talks with Saban, he did provide more insight into why he ultimately decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 2014 NFL draft. He also said Saban supported him 100 percent once the decision was made.
"He just gave me his insight. Obviously he knows exactly what he's talking about," Sunseri said Tuesday. "He's a great football coach. But I felt my film this year (2013) was what it needed to be. I felt like I needed to play like I needed to play this year. I finally got a chance to play at safety, which I didn't get my freshman or sophomore year too much. I got a chance to play at safety. I felt really comfortable back there and I was able to make a couple of plays at the beginning of the season. I was an All-American before I got hurt, so I felt I had a great film. I feel like I'm ready to take that next step. I feel like I'm mature enough. I feel like the coaches in the NFL see that."
Sunseri, who missed the second half of last season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament versus Arkansas, participated in multiple drills in front of NFL scouts including the 40-yard dash and other workouts to test his surgically repaired knee.
"I felt like I was going into my first football game since Oct. 19," Sunseri said. "Waking up nervous. I went through my football routine. Woke up, took a shower. Went through my starts on my 40 just like I was about to go play a football game. It was great to be back on the campus and see everybody. Just an unbelievable experience."
Less than six months removed from surgery, Sunseri said he was clocked at 4.48 and 4.52 during his two 40-yard dash runs. He also said he lifted 225 pounds 21 times and weighed in at 209 pounds. During the position drills, Sunseri worked with a brace on his left knee for support, but said the knee feels "awesome." Sunseri said he felt healthy enough to play in the Sugar Bowl.
"The deciding factor was how good my knee felt," he said. "A lot of guys were saying 'He's coming off knee surgery, I don't know if he'll be able to do a lot of stuff, I don't know if he'll be able to do a pro day.' Well, obviously, I did my pro day. I ran fairly good for a safety. I did all my footwork stuff, I did all my drills, showed I was able to open up, showed that the knee was good, had a little plant and drive. I knew I could trust in myself. I tweeted the four-month countdown and when the four months came I felt very good about myself."
Sunseri said he received grades ranging from being drafted in the 4th round all the way to possibly being an undrafted free agent. He also said that the teams he has spoken with "love my film."
One thing working in Sunseri's favor is his ability to play multiple special teams position. While he may not be viewed as a prototypical NFL safety, Sunseri could find a home on coverage units.
"Obviously it's a big contributing factor to be able play on special teams," Sunseri said. "I was personal protector on punts, I was on kickoff, I was on punt (coverage), I was on kickoff return, and I even held on field goals whenever they needed me to. Versatility is a big thing in the NFL and I'd hope they'd look at me as a very versatile player."