Full Speed Ahead for Auburn's Savage

After two years of rehab and waiting for his chance to play for the Auburn football Tigers, Aairon Savage will hit the field again in the spring.

Auburn, Ala.--After watching the past two seasons from the sidelines, it's doubtful that anybody on the 2010 Auburn football team will be more eager to take the field on opening day than Aairon Savage.

A sixth-year senior, who was recently granted an extra year of eligibility after missing the 2008 season with a knee injury and the 2009 season with a Achilles injury, Savage is expected to hit the practice field in late March when the Tigers open spring drills.

"I am there, I am 100 percent, it feels good," Savage says. "I can do everything. It is very exciting. It is a blessing just to get back out there and be with 10 other guys. We are all going for the same goal. It is very exciting."

Savage, who was making the conversion from safety to cornerback prior to the 2008 season when he was injured, says he is still waiting to find out what position he will play. "Whatever it is, it is going to be whatever is best for Auburn."

The defensive back played cornerback in high school so he says he feels comfortable handling that position.

Savage, who redshirted in 2005 after signing with the Tigers out of Westover High in Albany, Ga., made a splash the following season by earning Freshman All-SEC honors.

Asked if he has a preference on his position, he says, "It doesn't matter, man. I can see everything at safety. Corner is more of on an island. It is just where I am at--it doesn't matter."

Aairon Savage is shown on graduation day.

Savage, who is 23 years old and in graduate school, notes that missing back-to-back seasons has been "frustrating," but adds, "Everything happens for a reason. I have learned a lot--a lot about myself, a lot about the people I have had around me.

"I have had a strong, a very strong support system, from Shannon (his girlfriend), my mom, my family, the guys here, just everybody, the community. It has been a very good support system."

The defensive back says despite the bad luck, he never thought about giving up. "How can I let it go, I have been doing it (playing football) since I was five," he notes. "It is just something in me. When you are out there you have 10 guys out there with you and you are going to war."

He adds, "It is kind of like music. It is something that can bring anybody together and it is something that everybody enjoys. It is just the love and passion that won't go away."

Savage's first injury was in a non-contact pass coverage drill in August of 2008 when he hurt his knee and that required major surgery. After rehabbing from that issue, he suffered an Achilles injury in an offseason workout last year.

"I just planted during a regular summer workout and it felt like somebody kicked it,"?he says. "I was just changing directions. I remember T'Bell (T'Sharvan Bell) was behind and I thought he had kicked me. I looked up and he wasn't there.

Savage notes his religious faith helped him through the ordeal and he has received a lot of support from his former roommates, Jerraud Powers and Walt McFadden, as well as others.

Tez Doolittle, a former Tiger who had an Achilles injury and played after rehabbing it, gave him comfort. "He said, ‘Just go at it, it will come back.'" The defensive back also got support and some tips from NFL running back Willis McGahee, who rehabbed from the same injury. Former Tiger Kendall Simmons, an NFL player who lives in Auburn, also has been supportive as have members of his church.

Aairon Savage will be one of Auburn's more experienced players for the 2010 season.

Savage was recruited as a high school senior by Gene Chizik when Chizik was the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Auburn. "That is very exciting to have Coach Chiz here,"?Savage says. "When he came back it just felt right. It felt like a blessing. Everything happens for a reason.

"How ironic is it to have two injuries, have a coach leave who recruited you and for the final season, when you are healthy, for him to come back and he already knows your story and how you work," Savage says. "I was just trying to put it on the table for him."

Savage currently checks in at 5-10, 197 pounds heading into spring drills, which will start in late March.

he says recently receiving the news that he would receive a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA was a relief, but notes it was something he expected.

"We want to win championships here," he adds. "I am just happy I can come back and help the guys do that."

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