The jersey, the life, the brotherhood.

Ricardo Savoy's not the type of person who turns down favors.

So last season, when the much-maligned Southside special teams were giving up nearly half a football field on kickoff returns, a flustered coach Jeff Williams asked aloud if anyone wanted to play special teams.

Savoy, the team's starting running back, didn't blink.

He's a Southside Maverick.

"That sums him up," Williams said Friday. "Last year, we were struggling on kickoffs. Ricardo said, 'Coach, I can do that.' I said, 'Get in there!' And from about week six on, he ends up making every tackle on the kickoff team.

"He'll sacrifice whatever he needs to do for the good of the team."

Of course, the kid in the No. 24 jersey, a 5-foot-10, 165-pound ball of muscle, isn't bashful about playing defense.

"It's not really that hard of a thing to do," Savoy said. "When I was younger, I used to play defense, so I thought I still had it. It's really not that hard to push yourself to get better at everything you do."

Savoy played inside linebacker at Chaffin.

"Back in sixth grade, in Boys Club, I played only defense, all through junior high," Savoy said. "I switched over to offense when I got to high school. I wanted to test out my speed, and I got used to it."

Savoy, the Mavericks' shifty running back, is mostly about gashing opposing defenses with his feet. He gives quarterback Taye Gatewood another threat through the air, exploiting the short passing game created by deep threats Jordyn Jackson and Tyrese Solomon.

"Ricardo came to us from Chaffin Junior High," Williams said. "You had Taye, Jordyn and Tyrese, and Darin Davenport, and all these big-time names coming out of our junior high. He came in playing running back, had a real good spring, and then a real good summer. The maturity level was there."

Then, disaster.

In the Mavericks' 2016 opener, against No. 1 Har-Ber, Savoy fumbled the first time he got the ball.

"His first carry, in his first football game, he fumbles," Williams said. "(But) he came back last year, and at the end of the year, he was playing at a high level. I think he's one of the best backs in the state."

"All you can do is get back up," Savoy said.

Savoy isn't pushing Daniel McGee, the school's all-time leading rusher, for a school record. He wouldn't this year, even without so many weapons.

But he'll be there when called on; he's a lifer.

Savoy's cousins, Aaron Grant and Jordan Racey, donned Southside uniforms back in the day — Grant graduated in 2010 and Racey in 2014.

"First off, this is my hometown; this is my school," Savoy said. "My family went to school here; I grew up going to games to watch my cousins. I really connect with the coaches here."

The Mavericks open the season Aug. 31 against high-powered Bentonville West.

Savoy can't wait.

"I've really pushed my hardest," Savoy said. "Me and my teammates, we have to be better with each other as the season goes along.

"This is my last year of high school — I'm going to miss it."