How Big 12 title game inspired Kansas State football safety Kobe Savage in injury rehab

One moment stood out to Kobe Savage last season, and it happened when he wasn't even on the field.
The closing minutes of Kansas State's Big 12 championship victory over TCU were at once a source of immense pride but also frustration for Savage, Kansas State's preseason all-conference safety.
"I remember the Big 12 championship when I was right after surgery and I was sitting on the sideline," Savage said recently while standing on the same AT&T Stadium field in Arlington, Texas, where the Wildcats edged then-unbeaten TCU, 31-28, for their first conference title in 10 years. "I stood up, even though I probably wasn't supposed to, and I saw the goal-line stand, and I saw Ty (Zentner) kick a field goal, so it was really heartwarming."
The Wildcats stopped TCU running back Kendre Miller twice inside the 1-yard line on third and fourth down on the Horned Frogs' overtime possession, leading to Zenter's walk-off game winner. But Savage, who typically would have been right in the middle of things, was relegated to the bench, sidelined for the final four games with a knee injury.
And while he reveled in K-State's victory, Savage also used it — along with a subsequent Sugar Bowl loss to Alabama — to fuel his recovery.
Kobe Savage driven to return in 2023
"Whenever I saw them hoist the trophy up, and I had just gotten my surgery done, is what made me go harder," Savage said. "I think that's what made me go a lot harder, just knowing that I can come back and do the same thing with my guys, and all the trust that they have in me and all the trust I have in them.
"That's what drove me the most to get my rehab done."
Super-senior middle linebacker Daniel Green, who played through nagging injuries of his own all last season, has been impressed by Savage's dedication during the offseason.
"Just how he attacks his rehab," Green said. "Nobody works harder than Kobe.
"It just shows his character and how hungry he is to be great."
Before suffering the season-ending injury in a 31-3 blowout victory at Baylor on Nov. 12, Savage had already established himself as a leader on the Wildcat defense, even though he joined the team in the spring as a transfer from Tyler (Texas) Junior College.
Despite missing the last four games, he tied for fourth on the team with 58 tackles, including three for loss, with a forced fumble and three interceptions.
More:Kansas State football transfer safety Kobe Savage a big hit with Wildcats and their fans
Chris Klieman 'excited' to have Kobe Savage back
"I'm excited. Kobe is an All-Big 12 player," K-State coach Chris Klieman said. "He had his season cut short by a handful of games and he's fully healthy now.
"He's a tremendous leader, a tremendous hitter. But he's going to have to be a catalyst back there because we lost three guys that are playing in the NFL in the secondary, and two of them were drafted."
Savage fully expects to be back at full strength by the time K-State opens its season against Southeast Missouri on Sept. 2 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
"I'm full go right now," he said. "I'm free to do anything I want to. Right now, I'm probably at about 90% with my leg, getting it back to 100%.
"So, by the end of fall camp, probably about the middle of fall camp, I'll be 100%."
The Wildcats report for preseason camp on Tuesday.
In addition to watching his teammates celebrate with the Big 12 championship trophy, Savage said he drew inspiration during his rehab from former Oklahoma and NFL running back Adrian Peterson, a fellow Texan.
'I felt like a caged animal'
"He tore his ACL and had his MVP season the next year," Savage said. "I know if someone like that from my same area in East Texas can do it, I can do it."
Savage had no personal frame of reference when it came to long recoveries. His only previous injury was a dislocated shoulder and elbow, which popped right back in place.
But difficult as it was, Savage's rehab gave him a new appreciation for the opportunities that lie ahead.
"It was very hard (sitting out)," he said. "I just felt like a caged animal, or an animal in a zoo. I wanted to be free so bad, but I understood what I had done, the injury that I had, so I just had to sit out and bite the bullet.
"I feel that injury showed me how much I truly love football and what I'm willing to do for the sport of football. I take every practice, every rep as hard as I can go, and I don't let anything stop me."
Arne Green is based in Salina and covers Kansas State University sports for the Gannett network. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @arnegreen.

Latest Player Notes

If that really was Drake Maye’s last game in Chapel Hill, it provided a fitting full-circle ending

UPDATED NOVEMBER 13, 2023 2:49 PMHere was Drake Maye in the middle of it all late Saturday night, in the middle of the kind ...

Shedeur Sanders closing in on CU Buffs single-season records through pain of all the sacks and hits

PUBLISHED November 13, 2023 at 12:38 p.m. | UPDATED: November 13, 2023 at 12:40 p.m.BOULDER — Shedeur Sanders is closing ...

Tenth Anniversary of Kick Six: Inside video, "Official" look at Historic Iron Bowl Shocker

Published Nov. 13, 2023, 6:00 a.m.By Creg Stephenson See and hear history behind Kick Six (excuse the ads, but this is ...

Goodman: Jimbo Fisher is out and Nick Saban wins again

Updated: Nov. 13, 2023, 10:00 a.m.|By Joseph GoodmanJimbo Fisher is out at Texas A&M, which goes to show that even when a ...

Huard on Huskies: Why a win over No. 10 Oregon St would be huge

The No. 5 UW Huskies’ quest to make the College Football Playoff went through the two-time defending Pac-12 champions on ...

USC’s loss to Oregon exposes clear flaws in program-building up front

EUGENE, Ore. — In January, Lincoln Riley was on the sidelines at SoFi for the College Football Playoff championship game, ...

Two years after winning school-record 12 games, Brady Hoke out as Aztecs football coach

Brady Hoke is out as San Diego State’s football coach.SDSU released a statement Monday morning saying that Hoke is retiring, ...

Oregon’s Bo Nix named Pac-12 offensive player of the week for third time in 2023

Oregon’s Bo Nix earned his third weekly honor from the Pac-12.Nix, who went 23 of 31 for a season-high 412 yards with four ...

Oregon Ducks’ head coach Dan Lanning mentioned as a leading candidate for Texas A&M job

Oregon Ducks head coach Dan Lanning has been mentioned as a leading candidate to replace Jimbo Fisher as coach of the Texas ...

After ‘tough day,’ Boise State AD searches for a football coach; defensive analyst promoted

Boise State athletic director Jeramiah Dickey was on the job for less than a week the last time he began a search for a football ...
See More Player Notes