When Tom Savage first met Bill O'Brien, he was thinking about a transfer from Rutgers. O'Brien, hired as Penn State's head football coach, liked the young quarterback from Springfield, Pennsylvania right away.
"I was always struck with his demeanor, his poise and his straightforwardness and you could just tell that he was a guy that believed in himself through all the things that he had been through and what he has been through up to this point," O'Brien said.
Years later, those same skills would serve Savage well as he waited for his opportunity with the Houston Texans.
During his second season, Savage spent the entire 2015 season on injured reserve after being hurt in the Texans preseason finale. Unable to play or practice, he was determined to improve whatever aspects of the game that he could.
"I was going to take that as an opportunity to sit there and learn and yeah, I think it was pivotal," Savage said. "I mean, I had a little project each week with Pat (O'Hara) and some of the coaches to kind of just getting to the base of this offense and really, fully understanding what this offense is about and how it operates."
Savage quietly studied, watched film and eventually returned to practice the following offseason. He prepared week after week for three seasons until being named the Texans starter. If the Texans playbook was its own language, Savage became fluent in it whether it was play-calling or reading defenses.
"He has a very good knowledge of what we do," O'Brien said. "He's been in it for four years. He's very – he comprehends everything that we're talking about. We're talking the same language and he understands it very well. From a defensive perspective, what we're looking at and then obviously from our own perspective."
Savage also cultivated his relationships with teammates, both on and off the field. He understood the importance of not only having chemistry with Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, but the rest of the offense too.
"He's tight with the offensive line, he's got good relationships with the backs, the tight ends, the whole deal," quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan said. "He really gets around. He makes an effort to really get to know these guys and not just on the field, but I think off the field, too. It shows up, it shows up. Certainly the chemistry with DeAndre's been apparent."
On Sunday, Savage will get his first Week 1 start in the NFL when he takes the field against the Jaguars. The former fourth-round draft pick's time has finally come, earning first-team reps throughout the offseason, training camp and preseason for the first time since he joined the Texans in 2014.
Savage's calm demeanor and resilience has led him to this moment.
"This is a privilege to be on this team, it's not a right," Savage said. "You're not entitled to anything in this league and you have to go out there and earn it and show it every day. Those are the kinds of values I learned in college and I'm going to take with me until the end of my career."
The Texans will host the Jacksonville Jaguars in their 2017 season opener at NRG Stadium. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. on CBS and SportsRadio 610.
Check out photos of the Houston Texans practicing for their upcoming game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.