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Ex-Pitt stars Savage, Street getting prepared for NFL's combine

| Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, 6:00 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt quarterback Tom Savage plays against North Carolina Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013 at Heinz Field.

Former Pitt players Devin Street and Tom Savage are ready to move on after their college careers ended in two separate pools of blood.

Both players, their wounds healed, are working out in Phoenix in preparation for the NFL scouting combine, which starts Saturday in Indianapolis. They will be joined by former teammate Aaron Donald; Penn State's Allen Robinson, John Urschel and DaQuan Jones; and West Virginia's Charles Sims and Will Clarke.

Their dream is to play in the NFL — “The thought of it gives me chills,” Savage said — and these preparations are the beginning.

Street, who set a Pitt record with 202 career receptions, missed most of the final three games with an ankle injury and blood clot in his elbow. The elbow injury, suffered early in the Syracuse game Nov. 23, initially was diagnosed as a bruise, but he said doctors later found a hematoma.

In that game, Savage took a vicious hit in the ribs but played through the pain. A week later, he threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to Miami. Then, in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl against Bowling Green on Dec. 26, Savage was hit near the same spot and was forced to leave the game with fractured ribs and, as it turned out, a bruised kidney.

At halftime, he said he discovered blood in his urine. That forced him to set aside his courage and let backup quarterback Chad Voytik finish the game.

“When I saw that, I said, ‘All right. You have to pull back.'

“It was better for the program for Chad (a redshirt freshman) to get to play. It gave everyone a confidence boost for next season.”

But it didn't help Savage, who was forced to turn down an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game. He also couldn't serve as an alternate for the Senior Bowl.

Instead, he put his workout schedule on hold for two weeks to rest and recuperate. He said he is healed and ready for the combine and a return to Pittsburgh on March 3 for Pitt's pro day.

While working out with former NFL quarterback Travis Brown, he has learned that a strong arm — and he has one — isn't enough.

“A lot of guys in the NFL can throw the ball 70 yards,” Savage said. “The tough thing is doing it with people in your face.”

Working with Brown almost every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., he is trying to improve his footwork.

“I want to quicken up my feet, quicken my game up in general,” he said.

Street's disappointment was deeper than that of Savage because he missed more time.

“It was hard,” he said, “but I couldn't put my head down and throw in the towel.”

Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he spent the last month of the season working with the young Pitt receivers on the field and in the film room.

In Arizona, he said he is working on the short bursts of speed that will make him a more complete pass catcher. He said he has run a 4.46 40, but straight-ahead speed isn't enough.

“The biggest thing,” he said, “is conveying to the scouts that I can run laterally and have the ability to separate and run those quick routes and not just run deep.”

Savage and Street aren't sure where they fit in the May 8-10 draft, and at this point, they don't care. A clearer picture will emerge after the combine.

“We hear good things, and we hear bad things,” Street said, speaking only of his situation. “Actually, we haven't heard too many bad things.”

Savage said he is focusing on his workouts and doesn't listen to draft analysts.

“I tell everyone, ‘Don't tell me anything.' It doesn't matter to me.”

As he prepares for the combine and a long series of job interviews, Street said he is more “eager than anxious.”

“I wouldn't say I'm too nervous, but nerves come with any big moment,” he said.

He said he has prepared since he was 16, when he watched the combine on TV with his mother Ria.

“I said with conviction, ‘I'm going to be there one day.' Street said. “She laughed, but she believed in me. Now that the moment is right around the corner, I'm not going to freeze up.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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