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Issue Date: September 2008

Winning Reason

Jennifer Keirn
"Go Browns!” read the message on the bill, dropped off by the grinning waitress, clearly thrilled to be waiting on the Cleveland Browns’ general manager.

But her smile dissolved to confusion as she saw the name on the credit card. “Who’sJoe Savage?” she could be heard asking her co-workers. “Is he using an alias?”

Being mistaken for his brother and Cleveland Browns general manager Phil is familiar territory for Joe Savage, particularly since moving to Cleveland two years ago. He has the same dusty blond hair and blue eyes, with a bit more Alabama in his voice.

But in the NFL, no one is asking “Who’s Joe Savage?” A pastor most of his career, he is developing a name for himself as a life coach for NFL coaches, managers, scouts and other front-office executives.

“There are guys in the NFL, they’re spiritually dry,” says Savage. “I saw Phil’s frustrations, being on the road, away from family, and I thought,There has to be a way to help these front-office guys in their spiritual journey.”

So in 2005, he started sending weekly inspirational e-mails to a small group of NFL contacts, with messages about winning, success and leadership. That e-mail list has since grown to nearly 1,500 recipients and includes about one-third of the NFL’s leadership.

“Joe has a really good understanding of the realities [of the NFL],” says Scott Pioli, vice president of player personnel for the New England Patriots. “He understands the lifestyle and the demands of the job at all levels of [football].”

Savage also formed the nonprofit Winners Influence to not only feed the spirits of those in the athletic spotlight, but also help them find ways to give back.

“The common thread [in all my work] is sports,” says Savage. “Sports brings down the walls between people.”

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