Favorite athlete: Julio Jones
Favorite team: 76ers
Favorite memory competing in sports: Scoring the (game-winning) touchdown to break Tennent’s 27-game losing streak in football.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Getting ‘pantsed’ during a varsity basketball game while taking a layup
Music on mobile device: I got a little bit of everything - Rap, country, alternative rock
Future plans: Start a family of my own and be successful
Words to live by: “Trust The Process”
One goal before turning 30: Travel as much as I can, wherever I can
One thing people don’t know about me: I was shot in the arm as a kid and didn’t realize until hours later.
By Ed Morrone
The moment was so enormous that Ryan Savage doesn’t even remember catching the ball that broke the streak.
What he does remember, however, is the beauty of the spiral quarterback Kip Mooney tossed his way from 30 yards out. Savage also vividly remembers the raucous celebration that followed the catch, as well as the bedlam that erupted when the clock finally hit zero. Even if the catch itself was a blur, how could Savage ever forget those moments that came before and after, the hard-earned ones that wiped away almost three years of nothing but losing?
He couldn’t. After 27 straight losses for the William Tennent football program, close to 20 of which Savage was a part of, the senior tight end/defensive end combo had two big hands in ending the infamous streak on Aug. 25, a 21-14 victory over Upper Moreland that also represented his first-ever varsity win in his third season with the program. It was Savage’s 30-yard touchdown grab from Mooney with 8:06 left that lit a match and burned down years of defeat.
“I remember Coach (Rich) Clemens calling the pass play and asking if Kip and I were ready,” Savage recalled. “We just looked at each other and said, ‘Hell yeah, we’re ready.’ I got behind the secondary, and it was just an absolutely beautiful ball by Kip.
“I don’t remember catching it, but I do remember standing up and everyone was there to mob me. It was an amazing feeling, but after we scored it we had to settle down because we still had a game to play. Our defense stopped them, and for the first time since I was on the team, we got to kneel down in Victory formation.”
The Panthers would only taste victory once more in 2018, but it was enough to change the narrative that Tennent was incapable of winning a football game. They scaled the mountain in large part due to senior leaders like Savage who refused to let his team stop working hard even as the defeats continued to pile up. If character-building was a class in school, Savage and his mates all would have received A-pluses.
“I’ve never seen a group of guys more hungry to break a streak,” Savage said. “As soon as Coach Clemens was named head coach (in December 2017), we went right into the weight room. He told us we were going to win, and we came out on that field ready and knowing the score was going to turn out in our favor. Sadly it didn’t roll that way the rest of the season, but my senior class can say that we broke the losing streak.
“Each game we lost, it was just more fuel on the fire. More and more, we wanted it. It seemed like everything and everyone was against us, and we wanted to prove them wrong. The coaching staff came in with a positive mindset knowing how hungry we were. Everyone says football brings you together, and literally everyone on that team felt like family. Going through all of those hard times together, it brought us closer and only made us stronger.”
For his part, Clemens recognized in Savage right away a kid that was fully committed to the cause, no matter how many consecutive games Tennent had lost. Clemens told stories of a kid who never missed a weight lifting session, even the brutal 6 a.m. ones. He saw in Savage a quiet leader who worked his behind off with equal ferocity and intensity no matter how badly the team would lose the night before.
“These guys, many of them had never won a football game before, and it showed them all that their hard work mattered,” Clemens said. “Ryan was one of our highest-character guys, period. There was never one occasion he wasn’t doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing. For a program to turn around, you need to have a guy like Ryan, one who does the right things every day. There’s not one bad thing I could say about Ryan. He’s the consummate student-athlete, teammate, football player and person. The amount of effort and class he brought to this program cannot be overstated.”
Not only was Savage an instrumental part of the Tennent varsity football program for three years, but he’s also an integral member of the Panthers’ basketball program, too. At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Savage is one of the tallest members of the squad and adds a much-needed physical presence in the post.
Tennent is off to a 1-2 start this year after going 6-16 in 2017 and 5-16 in 2016, but with six seniors including Savage, the team is hopeful it can win more than one SOL Continental game this season (the Panthers went 1-11 each of the last two years in conference) and make an attempt at a postseason run.
Heck, after the football team snapped its 27-game losing streak, anything now seems possible for Savage.
“I feel like we have very good talent on this team,” he said. “Hopefully we can make a playoff run this season. Not just for me, but everyone at William Tennent needs and deserves that.”
As far as his role on the court, Savage may come off the bench, but he still sees a lot of similarities in his football and basketball personas.
“My role is to work hard in the post, make foul shots and play great defense,” Savage said. “Whether I’m starting or coming off the bench, my job is to do whatever it takes to help us win. I try to bring energy. Football gives you an aggressive side, and that helps me as a big man banging around with other kids down low.”
Tennent head basketball coach Robert Mulville has Savage both on the court and in his AP Government class, and Mulville painted a similar picture of Savage that Clemens did: a hard-working, talented, dedicated, respectful kid, one that every team needs.
“His athleticism on the court really helps us out,” Mulville said. “He does the right thing seemingly all the time. He has a nice, soft touch, can shoot foul shots and is a pretty good passer out of the post.
“He can run like a deer up and down the court all night without getting tired and that athleticism is really going to help us down the road. Just a real high-character kid who comes to work hard every single day and provides a lot of stability to our program.”
Of course, Savage is much more than just a football and basketball player. He challenges himself academically as much as he does athletically, holding a 3.6 GPA and taking advanced placement classes. He referred to himself as “a history nerd” who also liked English classes due to the fact that there are no definitive answers to many of the questions posed in class.
When it comes to math courses like Calculus, Savage said he found a sense of satisfaction whenever he solves a really difficult problem. Because of how well-rounded and versatile he is as a student, it’s no surprise to hear he could see himself pursuing a career as a teacher.
“Being a student-athlete, there’s a reason student is put in front of athlete,” he said. “With my grades, I just want to open as many windows as possible and good grades will get me to wherever I want to go. I think I could bring my GPA up, but either way I’m proud of myself for working this hard. My motivation comes from my family pushing me to be the smartest, toughest, strongest kid, so I owe all of my thanks to them.”
Savage said he would love to play both of the sports he loves collegiately, but if he absolutely had to choose, he would go with football. It’s no surprise to hear that he’d like to play both on top of his college classes, as Savage isn’t very good at sitting still. He said he loves to stay busy, and even started his own grassroots landscaping business. It started when his grandparents, who live in the same neighborhood as him, would need help blowing leaves or removing snow. Then, by word of mouth or simply by going door to door, Savage discovered he could make decent money by performing a service people couldn’t or didn’t feel like doing themselves.
Extra-curricularly, Savage is involved in Tennent’s Black & White tradition, a three-day decathlon of academic, athletic and aquatic challenges. He coaches in the school’s Powder Puff Game, and also helps in fundraising endeavors for the football program.
It all adds up to one heck of a high school experience. The fact that the teams Savage was a part of lost more than they won matters little when considering he had the time of his life regardless. And all that really matters is his senior class being the one that broke the infamous 27-game football losing streak, with the winning touchdown that broke years of misery landing directly in Savage’s arms.
“I just love the fact that I created two brand new families,” he said. “I had a great experience with all of them, win or lose. It was amazing, and I’d kill to go back and play with all of those guys again.
“I want to give a shoutout to our student section who always supported us whether we won or lost. The culture at William Tennent is amazing, and I’d like to say thanks to all the players, coaches and people who made it such a memorable experience.”