War Eagle Extra

Auburn cornerback Savage puts focus on return to field

AUBURN, Ala. — An antsy Aairon Savage watched impatiently during Auburn’s scrimmage last week, itching to get on the field, knowing he had to at least give it a try.

When the time was right, the senior slyly sneaked onto the field at the beginning of a series, hoping the coaches wouldn’t notice. The orange, non-contact jersey was a dead giveaway.

“They grabbed him,” cornerback Walt McFadden said, “pulled him back.”

It will likely be as close as Savage gets to actual game action this spring. The cornerback is just seven months removed from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered during two-a-days last August and is still working himself back into game shape.

“I found out a lot about myself and a lot about people around you,” Savage said of his time away from the game. “You’ve just got to keep going and think of every day, no matter how many days you’ve got to go, just take it day-by-day.”

It seems like Savage has been out of action for a while. He missed six games in 2007 with shoulder and ankle injuries but was primed to compete with McFadden for a starting cornerback job last year. During the third practice of two-a-days, however, he went back to deflect a pass during a drill and tore up his right knee. Just like that, his season was over.

“Just a bad dream, man, to sum it all up. It was just a bad dream,” Savage said. “We worked so hard the offseason just to be in the position that we were in. For things to happen how they happened, it was hard. It was hard.”

He spent the year rehabbing while his roommates, McFadden and Jerraud Powers, thrived as the Tigers’ starting cornerbacks.

“Any time somebody goes down, somebody else has to step up,” Savage said. “Even though I did not want this injury, I learned a lot from it. It’s taught me a lot.”

He began a running program in January, slowly increasing his range of motion. Although he’s participated in the cornerback drills during the spring, he still isn’t allowed to go 100 percent.

Once Savage is healthy, it’s unclear where he’ll fit.

“I think he’s a guy who’s had so much experience playing that you can kind of play him where you feel like he best fits based on the people around,” head coach Gene Chizik said. “You have a luxury with him and the luxury is that he can play a number of things. He’s smart enough to even play nickel.”

That’s still in the future, though. For now, Savage is stuck with that cursed orange jersey that keeps him on the sidelines whenever the action gets heated.

But he knows there is a worse alternative. He experienced it last year.

“It’s good to be back out there with the guys,” he said. “Just to look in their eyes and see the uplift, it feels good.”