TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Phil Savage helped Nick Saban 20 years ago, breaking down film and performing countless other tasks for the Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator.
His career took off when coach Bill Belichick moved him into a job scouting and evaluating players, something Savage still does even though he really doesn't have to.
Savage took over as executive director of the Senior Bowl in his Mobile hometown in May. He still works as the top-ranked Crimson Tide's color analyst but spends much of his time traveling to various schools and drawing up scouting reports on various NFL prospects.
It's what he loves, and he's awfully good at it, according to Saban.
"Of all the guys that I've ever had that help me, and there's a bunch of good ones, I don't know anybody that was more effective as a helper," the Alabama coach said. "I don't even know what his title was, but he worked with me. I've never had anybody do a better job at what they did than he did there for us.
"He worked extremely hard. I couldn't have done what I did to coach the secondary and be the coordinator without him. He had a tremendous knack for personnel evaluation, which I think Bill Belichick saw. Instead of moving him in the coaching realm, which I think he would have been really good at, he moved him into personnel. He moved up very rapidly in that. I think he's one of the best personnel people in the game."
Now, the 47-year-old Savage is scouting at practices and games to offer prospects a sort of roving job fair and generate season-long interest in the Senior Bowl. No franchise's fortunes hinge on his evaluations, which are posted on the game's Web site, these days.
"It's something that I do enjoy doing," Savage said before a recent Alabama game. "I felt like that the Senior Bowl has been an event that kind of wakes up at the end of January and kind of goes back to sleep again after the game. I'm like, we need to run our calendar concurrent to the NFL draft. We're an important step in that process."
Savage certainly has the pedigree. He was a graduate assistant under Bill Curry at Alabama before working as a defensive assistant under Saban.