As we count down from 50 days until the New Orleans Saints begin their regular season in Atlanta, on September 7th, we're getting to know a little bit about those players who have signed on to bring home another Lombardi trophy.
Today, we take a brief look at "Sackman" Junior Galette and at this year's fifth-round draft pick, #43 Vinnie Sunseri.
So, with no more ado:
43 DAYS UNTIL ATLANTA!!!
#43: Vinnie Sunseri (S, Rookie)
Coming off of an ACL surgery which cut his junior year short, Vinnie Sunseri was projected to go as late as the seventh round in this year's draft. Some projected that he might even end up a free agent after the draft. However, Sean Payton and Rob Ryan must have seen something special in this safety, as they drafted him in the fifth round.
Sunseri has developed a reputation for being a very intelligent leader that's able to read offenses and help orchestrate defenses. Add his ability to hit hard and skill at attacking the football, and he has a chance at becoming a key figure in Rob Ryan's ever-evolving defensive schemes.
Vinnie was a solid football player from day one. He played in all 13 games as a true freshman in college. Serving as a backup safety and special-teams player, he recorded 31 tackles, one pass defense and zero interceptions with one forced fumble. By 2012, he was Alabama's starting dime back. Making making eight starts in 14 games, the sophomore logged 54 tackles (6 for a loss), 1.5 sacks, three passes defensed and two interceptions. As a junior, he began last season by scoring the first two touchdowns of his career on interception returns -- a 38-yard return in the season opener against Virginia Tech, and a 73-yard return of a pick from Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel the following week. Sunseri would go on to start five more games at safety before suffering a torn ACL on the opening kickoff against Arkansas in October. He finished the year with 20 tackles, four passes defensed and two interceptions in those seven games.
Throughout his three and a half years of college football, Vinnie Sunseri appeared in 34 games with 15 starts, and posted 105 tackles (67 solo), seven tackles for a loss, 1.4 sacks, four interceptions, eight passes defensed, three fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. Despite his torn ACL, which medically excluded him from the NFL Scouting Combine, he declared for the draft, Vinnie believed declaring for the draft after his junior season was the right thing to do. So far, it seems like the New Orleans Saints agree.
Son of Sal Sunseri, who coached the Carolina Panthers' defense line for seven seasons and now coaches defensive ends at Florida State, Vinnie is no stranger to the requirements of being a top NFL player, including film study. And reportedly, his discipline and dedication were already showing during rookie minicamp earlier this summer. He is currently one of seven safeties on the 90-man Saints roster; but if he continues along the track he was on before tearing his ACL in college, this rookie has a real chance of sticking around and making an impact as an NFL defender.
4 yr(s) / $2,396,500. Average: $599,125 per year.
#93: Junior Galette (OLB, 5th year)
Another notch on the PayLoo UDFA Championship Belt.
After being picked up as an undrafted free agent in 2010, Junior Galette excelled on special teams, and has consistently shown significant growth. Through his first four seasons, he has appeared in 48 games with 17 starts and has career totals of 101 tackles (66 solo), 21.5 sacks, four passes defensed, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 11 special teams stops.
With a breakout season last year, Galette has made a name for himself as a pass-rushing threat in the Saints defensive line rotation. In the season opener against Atlanta, he posted a quarterback takedown of Falcons QB Matt Ryan. A week later, he recovered a fumble forced by Jordan and added four stops (three solo) at Tampa Bay. By the end of the season, the Haiti native had recorded 50 tackles (32 solo), 12 sacks, three passes defensed, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
Appearing in all 16 regular season games in 2013, and starting 15 as an OLB, he posted the second-highest single-season takedown total by an undrafted player in Saints record books. He also finished ranked fourth in the NFC (sixth in the NFL) in sacks, and tied for fifth in the conference (sixth in the league) in defensive fumble recoveries.
He also received the Jim Finks Good Guy Award last year.
3 yr(s) / $6,300,000. Average: $2,100,000 per year.
Junior agreed to a three-year contract in March 2013. Like star DE Cameron Jordan, Galette becomes a free agent after the 2015 season.