Catching Up with a Cavalier Legend
By Andy Fledderjohann, Athletics Media Relations
Ray Savage was known as an exemplary leader during his days as a Cavalier in the late ’80s.
It’s much the same these days for Savage just in a much different field.
Savage, a former Cavalier defensive end from 1986-89, now owns his own sports agency, Savage Sports Management LLC, in Newport News, Va. It certainly was not the field Savage planned on entering once his playing career ended, but he has found it to be the perfect fit.
“When I played, I played for the love of the game,” Savage said. “Now my job is strictly to protect the kids. Football is big business. Sometimes when you get players who are released with no explanation and they clearly seem to be the better player, cap-enomics’ and big business come into play. It’s my job now to shed that ugly light onto the players that this is a business. We need to follow certain parameters to make sure these players are taken care of.”
Savage currently has a clientele of 12 football players eight NFL players and four CFL players. He goes to bat for his players in order to get them the best deal.
“It’s my job to get them as much protection in terms of insurance, guaranteed money, how the money is paid out whether it’s sooner rather than later so if they are released they have this capital to move on with their lives,” Savage said. “There are a lot of dynamics that come into play.”
Savage has the necessary background to deal with NFL players. He played professionally for about four-and-a-half years. After being drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1990, Savage also played with Philadelphia and Indianapolis, with a stint in the CFL sandwiched in between.
When he went to Indianapolis, Savage negotiated his own deal. He took a liking to it and even helped some teammates with their deals.
“They had some experiences that I had in switching agents,” Savage said. “I wound up doing my own deal in Indianapolis and I talked to a bunch of guys and helped them with their deals and that’s how it started. It happened by chance I had no idea this is what I wanted to do. Maybe that was the plan for me all along. I haven’t done anything else since.”
After retiring from professional football at the age of 26, Savage joined his former agent, Gene Barrow, as his vice president and realized he had found his calling.
“I’m still close to the game,” Savage said. “I’m on the sidelines and I’m a big brother and a coach for these players. I represent primarily defensive guys cornerbacks, defensive backs, defensive lineman since that’s what I know best. I can talk to them about the game. When they call me afterwards, I can say great play’ or you’ve got to get your head around.’ I’m not just a cheerleader guy. I can talk about which defense they were in when they scored the touchdown and what they should have done and I love that part of it.”
Savage owns not one, but two successful businesses in Newport News. He also runs his own mortgage company.
“I started it back when the mortgage industry was booming. Of course it’s slumping now,” Savage said. “We kept our operation small so we could survive and, like anything else in our economy, it’s going to bounce back and hopefully we will reap the rewards.”
In addition to his two businesses, Savage also tends to his growing family. Married now for 15 years, he is the father of two. He coaches his son’s youth football team and is the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.
Savage will look to pass on many of the skills he honed while at UVa. He was a beast at defensive end and was known for his “barking” on defense. In fact, many fans threw dog bones on or near the field late in the season.
“I am a Parliament Funkadelic fanatic George Clinton, Bootsy Collins,” Savage said. “When I was younger, I used to go to the shows with my uncles. They have a song called Atomic Dog’ Why must I feel like that, why must I chase the cat.’ I made the opponent the cat. It was a way to motivate my teammates, and barking is synonymous with being aggressive. It just reverberated throughout the lockerroom and it was crazy. I had everybody doing it.”
Savage was co-captain with Roy Brown and Shawn Moore on the 1989 ACC Championship team. He still looks fondly at his days at UVa, especially the championship team which stuck together after a dreadful opening loss to Notre Dame.
“We made strides in ’87 and ’88 and then had a debacle with Notre Dame,” Savage said. “We took so much pride in being leaders and bringing the team back together and winning 10 games because at that time, Coach (George) Welsh told us, this is your team. I want you guys to impose discipline on the guys.’ So we were charged with the responsibility of if you miss practice, you’re not going to play the first quarter or we think that practice wasn’t good enough, we need to stay for another 30 minutes. That’s a big responsibility for a 21-year-old. But that was part of the maturity of the team we had.”
Savage knew at the time that he was part of something special. Now, this team is regarded as one of the best in UVa history.
“I liked the camaraderie,” Savage said. “We never got down. I think that’s when Virginia learned how to win. Even when we got down 14, we just said OK, let’s chip away. We just started slow.’ We knew we could win. It was such a different mindset than 1986. I was with a bunch of winners.”