Done with his eligibility after a knee injury again cut short his final year in 2010, Savage was coaching at Atlanta Sports Academy this past spring when he got a phone call from Auburn Coach Gene Chizik wanting him to return to Auburn to assist the coaching staff in a quality control position. Savage said it was a no-brainer for him and he hasn't looked back since.
"I remember sitting with my little cousin Chandler and we were talking," Savage said. "He just started smiling. To be here, to be back home, I'm back in a place I'm familiar with. It's like being at home what more can I say.
"It really was a blessing to have Coach Chizik welcome me back and be a part of things and to help guide the guys," he added. "I want to be that olive branch between the coaches and the players to try to get them on the right page."
Savage has had plenty of practice in that regard during his career at Auburn. Suffering three different season-ending injuries during his six years, he turned to being a student coach on the field and trying to help out his teammates. He said that it has turned into a possible profession is something he's thankful for and he doesn't have any regrets.
"I'm sure we could go back and look and see that, but my deal was injuries," Savage said. "For other people it's other things. I can't question why. There's a reason for everything and maybe one day when I get up top I can ask that question.
"I came to college like everybody else hoping to go to the NFL," he added. "My backup plan was to get my degree and be a chiropractor and be around ball. Any way I could be around ball I wanted to do that. As it kind of happened my path kind of got directed to doing this and I love it. I get to wake up and communicate with guys and help them grow as a person. That's the biggest thing for me."
One thing that is common when talking to Auburn football players is the love they have for the university, campus and town after their career is done. Savage said for him it's much the same and he's excited to have yet another chance to team up with Chizik and company, this time on the other side of the team.
"It has been huge," Savage said. "I remember it like it was yesterday. I came to a camp and Coach (Phillip) Lolley and Coach Chiz saw me and it kind of took off from there. He's always had those open arms. If you do the right thing everything will take care of itself. He's very family oriented. I love that."
Last season was one of the toughest for Savage to endure. Fighting back to earn a starting role, he was injured in a win over Arkansas and was forced to watch the rest of the year from the sidelines as the Tigers won the BCS National Championship. That would be a bitter pill to swallow for some, but he said seeing Auburn raise that trophy was reward enough for him.
"There were a lot of mixed emotions," Savage said. "Obviously everybody grows up wanting to play in the Super Bowl or the NCAA Championship. I was happy that Auburn got to be represented. We've been trying to get there and that was much bigger than me being out there. For us to win it, that's a lot of hard work for the guys that came way before us, the guys that laid these bricks. Just to be a part of that banner on the top of the stadium, that's huge."
Now working as an offensive quality control assistant and without on-field coaching duties, Savage will spend much of his time checking class attendance and mentoring players off the field in his first season back. He said for him just having the opportunity to be a part of things is enough.
"These guys are 19 and 20 and to be that last influence on their life and to be able to help them before they go out into the real world is huge," Savage said. "I love that, to be able to have conversations and know what is going on with them personally and try to help them. It's more than about football. That's my whole thing that I want them to know. Use football and get what you can get out of it and live a productive life and be a productive citizen."
Spending almost a third of his life in Auburn, Savage said it has become home for him. Now going into the 2011 season with a different role than he's ever had, the former safety said he's just happy to be along for the ride.
"It has been a crazy, but it has been a blessing," Savage said. "It's home, it's my second home. Just like everybody says when you first come to Auburn, it grows on you and you become Auburn and bleed orange and blue. I believe that. I had my bumps and ups and downs just like anybody, but as you grow and persevere you become who you are. I believe in Auburn."