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Updated: Thursday, 11 Oct 2012, 8:15 PM CDT
Published : Thursday, 11 Oct 2012, 8:15 PM CDT
MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Mobile native Phil Savage was appointed in May to lead the college all-star football classic. Savage possesses an impressive resume with coaching and management experience in both the college and professional ranks.
Savage recently shared about how attending the Senior Bowl as a child and his career experience have prepared him for this job.
"I've had more fun in the last few years than I'd had in a long time because it’s just what I love to do. I get to watch players. I get to talk about them and then get a chance to pull all that together here at the Senior Bowl. It’s an incredible opportunity," said Savage.
The Mobile native's love for the game was influenced by several coaches; the first one spotted him playing catch with his dad.
"The youth football coach at Mims Park was passing by after work. He saw my Dad and I in our front yard playing catch with a football. He went home and told his wife, ‘Hey, I think I just found my quarterback,’ And so that started this football life of mine really and Bob Goucher was his name. He was my coach for six years and that got me started," Savage fondly remembered.
Savage went on to play quarterback at Murphy high school and at Suwanee College. He said he wasn't that good of a football player, but was able to get that one opportunity to play in college.
He was also a pretty good baseball player at both schools, a three time all conference Shortstop at Suwanee.
Savage headed to Alabama to get a masters degree and begin his college football coaching career. The Capstone is where Savage started building his resume as a graduate assistant.
"Alabama Head Coach Bill Curry, a man of faith, being there at that time to see someone go through what he did those three years, you figured out that this was serious business. A man named Coach Homer Smith, from a football standpoint, I learned more about the game from him than anyone else. He took me to UCLA with Terry Donahue. From there I ended up at Cleveland with the Browns of the National Football League. The head Coach was Bill Belichick, and Nick Saban was the Defensive Coordinator. So within a very short period of time, Homer Smith and offense, Bill Belichick, Nick Saban with defense and special teams. I got a doctorate in football from some of the brightest minds in the game," Savage said.
His "football doctorate" helped get him his first shot at management as a scout with the Browns. He quickly rose through the ranks with the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens. In 2005, Savage joined the Browns again, this time as their General Manager.
"I never started off in coaching to end up as a General Manager. I was a little bit of a riser through the ranks. I mean, I'd gotten to that GM position at 39, pretty rare," Savage said.
The Browns had their best record in 13-seasons in 2007. But, in 2008 Savage's fourth season as GM, the team only won four games, and the owners made changes.
"That was the first time that I had ever been fired from a job. You get told, ‘Hey, we don't need you anymore.’ It's hard. It's very difficult especially when you've had success through most of your career," Savage said.
Savage's faith and family support helped him press on and move forward to the next opportunity.
"I'm at a Red Elephant club meeting for Alabama as the speaker. And it dawned on me, I'm like you know, I didn't play at Alabama, but I think I could check off nine or 10 of the boxes that they're looking for to replace the retired Kenny Stabler. So I called Mal Moore the Alabama Athletic Director the next day and said, ‘Hey, if there's a possibility, I'd like to get my name in the hat.’ So, I said to myself, next fall for 2009, I said I hope i'll be the color man for Crimson Tide Radio Network," said Savage.
Four months later, he got the job, and Savage is now in his fourth season with Bama football.
"The Senior Bowl job, when it opened up, it seemed interesting. I've been coming to this game since I was 5 or 6 years old. I mean, I can remember tugging on the pant legs of Don Shula and Weeb Ewbank. To have that perspective of being a child and looking at the Senior Bowl through a kids eyes all the way up to the point of being a General Manager. It's also a tremendous advantage to have been in the National Football League for 20 years and have a good idea of what it takes to play in that league from a players standpoint, but then also what are GM's and coaches are looking for. It was too good of a combination to pass up the opportunity," says Savage.
Savage said he plans to build on the tradition and make it a great event for everyone.
"Wrigley Field or Fenway Park or the Rose Bowl or places like that, there's a tradition and a history there, the Senior Bowl has been this institution for 62 years. You can capitalize on that, but you still have to take care of the customers, and you've got to take care of the players on the field. I think there's so much untapped potential with this game. The way the
NFL draft has exploded: the coverage of the draft, people love the draft they love to hear about these players and their projected value and how they might be utilized in the pros. We're trying to align ourselves with the football season to expose the Senior Bowl game, and we're trying to create a presence for ourselves in the local community year around with some of the off season events to keep ourselves in the news. We don't just wake up in late January then go back to sleep the first week of February. We're a viable football resource almost on a year around basis. There's something here for everybody whether they're football fan or draft fan or not, the Senior Bowl can be a great event for everybody," Savage states.
Senior Bowl fans may one day see juniors allowed to play in the game if they meet Savage's list of specific requirements. Bama's Dont'a Hightower, and Baylor's Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin the Third would have qualified to play in the 2012 game. Savage is also busy looking for a title sponsor for the 2013 Senior Bowl game which is set for January 26, 2013.