Raynette Savoy: Driven to Win

By Rich Cook

This profile was written in 2006.

Good things come to those who wait!

To anyone who has ever buckled a chin-strap and played the game, football is ultimately about only one thing: winning. In any league, in any era, the driving force of those who take the field is to be a champion. For the most intense of players, it can become an obsession without equal, an all-consuming passion that galvanizes and inspires. Simply put, nothing else matters.

Raynette Savoy, the versatile, veteran captain of the DC Divas, is completely fixated on a title shot. “Right now all I can think of is winning a championship. If that happens, that’s it, I’m done. I’m retiring.”

Savoy’s zeal and enthusiasm has become a motivating force beyond compare. The insatiable desire to win has kept her going through late-season injuries and subsequent surgeries. It’s a boundless enthusiasm, as genuine as it is persuasive. An irresistible affection to leave a permanent mark and a lasting legacy on the game she loves. “All I want is that trophy,” Savoy conceded with a steely determination.

Savoy’s quest began with a different team, back when the National Women’s Football Association was still in its infancy. As a charter member of the Baltimore Burn, she cut her teeth and learned the football ropes. But for Raynette just competing wasn’t enough.

“I wanted to play for a contender,” Savoy admitted enthusiastically. “My sister Tatiana played for Coach [Ezra] Cooper, so I knew DC was a good situation…now I can’t imagine myself playing for another team. I love everyone here too much.”

This magical season has become Savoy’s last stand. Her life away from football has become increasingly more complicated with personal and professional responsibilities. “Right now, it’s just me. It’s hard to find time even for your family. Some of my teammates, the ones that are mothers, I respect them so much. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it.”

Although retirement is imminent, the wonderful daydream of going out on top has endured. Now that fantasy is close to becoming a reality. “I didn’t even set any personal goals this year, aside from learning and fitting in to a new spot on the defense. All of my goals are team goals. And the ultimate team goal is to win it all.”

Adjusting to a new position has become an all-too-familiar role. Over the course of her career, Savoy has ping-ponged back and forth from offense to defense. At one point or another, she has played every position on the field, except for offensive line.

This season, the Divas had a need for an outside linebacker. It didn’t take very long to find a willing volunteer. “It’s cool being in there and mixing it up,” Savoy said with a laugh. “People say I hit hard, but actually I’m much more of a finesse player…to be honest, my favorite position is really quarterback.”

The opportunity to return to that first love, albeit in a limited role, came unexpectedly early in the season. “At the beginning of the year, we lost our third string quarterback, so the coaches were looking for someone else. They [the coaching staff] knew that I had experience from when I played in Baltimore, so I just offered.”

In specific situations, typically around the opponents goal line, the Divas run specialized offensive sets such as “Metro,” “Stud,” or “Tank.” That’s when Savoy has her chance under center. “They look at me as a running quarterback. I guess they’re probably right. I don’t have the patience to stand in the pocket…if it’s an open field, I’m going.”

Despite the occasional glamour of playing quarterback, Savoy’s bread and butter is in the violent maelstrom of the trenches. She takes tremendous satisfaction in her substance over style outlook, and in being part of a group that has allowed only six points all season. “It’s a pride thing for us. We don’t want anyone to score, period.”

Savoy has been an integral part of the success. She leads the defense in passes defensed and is third on the unit in total tackles. Always the consummate teammate, she is quick to deflect the praise to someone else. “I love playing next to [middle linebacker] Ivy [Tillman]. She’s got a radar lock for the football. She’s such a leader out there, almost like a coach on the field. She’s always making sure that everyone is in the right spot.”

Whether by fate, fortune, or simply hard work, the right spot is exactly where Savoy now stands. That elusive championship goal is within sight, the ultimate prize at long last, within reach. “We’ve been working for months, way before the start of the season. But this where all that hard work can really pay off. We’ve accomplished so much, but we still have a lot to prove.”