Honoring a Legacy
Sitting in the large deep green chair of his apartment with the TV on, reminiscing about past glory days, retired Bel Air football coach Bob Savage details “the pride” he feels about being honored by having the football field named for him.“This (the dedication of the football field) is the greatest honor I’ve ever had as a coach…It’s probably the nicest and greatest thing I could ever receive,” Savage said. Despite the awards and honors he has received – being Coach of the Year and being inducted into the El Paso Hall of Fame – the dedication of the stadium is the best because it is something “that will last forever,” he said.The lasting tribute – the football field – brings back the memories of times past when the football team would play against Eastwood at a filled Sun Bowl Stadium.“(Eastwood) was a super super team. They had six Division 1 scholarships, and we didn’t have a single one. We were both undefeated,” Savage said.“It was the talk of the town. It was like Notre Dame and USC…It was the first time ever that a high school team filled the Sun Bowl” resulting in a Bel Air win, he said.
However, one of his former students’ favorite memory of Savage isn’t a game or post-game celebration rather it’s what happened prior to the games.
Even though he never played for Savage, Hanks High School Varsity Girls’ Basketball Assistant Coach Tyronne Burns, who was responsible the dedication, established a relationship with the acclaimed coach by eating lunch every day in the football locker room and talking to him about what it meant to be a leader and team player.
“The best memory I have of Coach Savage is those motivational speeches before games…To me hearing that had me motivated…I would sneak in to the locker room (with the coaches) who were near the door, and I could just hear him talking to his players,” Burns said of Savage.
This, Burns said, was one of the aspects that made him such a successful coach and person. Savage’s advice “to work hard and always be humble” was the greatest lesson he ever taught Burns because “as easily as you’ve been blessed with talent, it could be taken away.”
Jesse Perales, Del Valle High School Football Coach and former player for Savage, agrees with Burns.
“He (Coach Savage) changed people’s lives (by the lessons he taught),” Perales said. “He taught me to overachieve, discipline, and motivation. A lot of the things I do today (as a coach) I learned from Coach Savage.”
Savage described the relationship with his players as being like that of a family.
“We (the football team) were a very tight unit….We loved each other; we cried together, and we prayed together,” Savage said. He described the closeness of the team by the way they would go to Mass together on Friday morning with their families.
Following his retirement in 1992, he and his wife, Joann Savage, who retired at the same time he did after years of being an administrative assistant to the Superintendent, purchased a home in Ruidoso, N.M. Everything “was just perfect,” Savage said.
Sadly, a year after they retired together, Savage’s wife suffered and died from a massive heart attack.
“We had been married for 36 years…For the last 20 years I’ve been living by myself,” Savage said. “It’s been lonely, but I’ve learned to cope. I’m just proud of all my accomplishments…in life itself.”