What do you do when you can't do the thing you love for 1,024 days?

Travel a little? Cross the country a couple of times? Or get a job, wake up at 5 a.m. to pack your own lunch and head to work with your dad on a construction site in the dead of winter?

Most of all, what you do is get perspective. That's exactly what quarterback Tom Savage, who is drawing a lot of interest as this week's NFL draft approaches, discovered during the nearly three years he spent waiting to throw a meaningful pass in a college game.

“The whole thing was humbling,” said Savage, who went from freshman All-American in 2009 at Rutgers to practically unknown commodity by 2013 at Pitt, where he had to walk on. In between, there was a stop at the University of Arizona.

“I was a young, bitter, pissed-off kid. Patience wasn’t part of my background. I had to go back and earn everything,” said Savage, who quit the Rutgers team after the 2010 season. Savage got hurt that season and was told by then-Rutgers coach Greg Schiano that he would have to compete to get his job back.

Savage left in a huff and ended up at Arizona, expecting to succeed Nick Foles as the starter in 2012 after sitting out a season. Problem was, coach Mike Stoops got fired and Rich Rodriguez was hired, bringing his spread-option offense.

Savage was not a good fit for that attack. So he returned home to Springfield, Pennsylvania, tried to get back into Rutgers (the NCAA turned down his application) and then had to wait around until he could walk on at Pitt.

As he volunteers details about his life, there are moments when the pain of not playing makes him wince a little. For instance, doing the construction job while he sorted out his next stop after Arizona was “definitely unique,'' he said. "I wasn’t expecting I’d be doing that, but it was all right.”

Really? It was “all right” for the former 4-star recruit and star of the team at powerhouse Cardinal O’Hara to return home so he could learn to swing a hammer? The kid who once beat rival Roman Catholic High of Philadelphia as a freshman backup with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes of longer than 70 yards was now OK doing day labor?

“As bad as things got, he never let it get him down, I’ll say that,” Cardinal O’Hara coach Dan Algeo said. “He’d come up to the school and lift and get his work in and didn’t get down about anything.”