Tom Savage's maturity impressed O'Brien

May, 10, 2014
May 10
3:20
PM ET
HOUSTON -- The words Tom Savage used to describe himself when he transferred away from Rutgers weren't kind.

"I was just a young 19-year-old bitter kid who thought I was entitled to some things," Savage said.

But his journey through three different colleges and one alternate career forced him to grow up.

[+] EnlargeTom Savage
AP Photo/Gerry BroomePitt's Tom Savage was sacked 43 times last season, more than any other FBS quarterback.
"I went to Rutgers as a high recruit, played early and kind of got sucked into the hype," Savage said. "I played well, but I think I became a little complacent with it and I think the best thing for me was to face adversity at a young age and to go through this whole journey because it humbles you and it makes you mature as a man."

He began at Rutgers in 2009, and was a freshman All-American. He played four games his sophomore year before losing his job during an injury. That taught him another lesson:

"I'll never get hurt," Savage said. "The only way I'm coming out of that game is if my leg is hanging off. Because this a performance-based game and if you give someone else a chance to perform over you then they're going to take your job."

That is when the entitlement set in. Savage decided he needed to leave and find opportunity elsewhere. He hoped that would come at Arizona, but had to sit out the year because of NCAA guidelines. Then the coaching staff was fired midseason and Savage relocated again.

He wanted to return to Rutgers, but the NCAA blocked that move. So Pittsburgh was the final stop.

Before he returned to football, though, Savage dabbled in a different career.

"I was out of school for the spring and my dad wasn’t going to let me sit around, and I didn’t really have a school to go to, there were no real options," Savage said. "And I started doing construction work with my dad and it was tough. I know what I don’t want to do after football and that’s work construction, because it was brutal on me."

It all contributed to a maturation process that Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien noticed when he visited with Savage during his pro day. O'Brien appreciated the maturity he saw in Savage when they had a chance to sit down and talk.

This is a pick who is an unfinished product. His accuracy wasn't great last season -- according to ESPN Stats and Info, Savage's off-target percentage of 24.7 was the highest among the top 10 FBS quarterback prospects. (Though he was also sacked 43 times last season, more than any other FBS quarterback.)

But he has another quality that is important for a rookie quarterback -- he knows he has a lot to learn and is eager to learn it. Too many young quarterbacks think they have all the answers.

"Obviously I have a lot to learn," Savage said. "I went 1,024 days without playing football. I played one year at Pitt and I learned a lot from coach Chryst there. But I think I have a lot to improve, and I'm excited to just get in there and start working."

Tania Ganguli

ESPN Houston Texans reporter

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