If you witnessed the second half of the 2018 college football National Championship game, or have watched/listened to/ read any sports related news this week, you’ve definitely seen the name Tua Tagovailoa.
But there’s a lot more to the true freshman backup QB (who is now realistically the favorite to win the Heisman next season) than that one half of football and that game winning pass against Georgia to give Alabama their 17th national title.
I mean, who the hell is this kid that playing like a beast in his first real game ever?
Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Tua actually attended Saint Louis High School, yes, the same one as Heisman trophy winner and fellow Hawaiian Marcus Mariota. And it just so happened that Marcus has mentored Tua on his path to stardom.
At a young age, Mariota saw something special in him and when he was just in the 4th grade he took Tua under his wing at a local quarterback camp to help mold him not only become a better football player, but a better man. Their bond came to the point that people called Tua the “Little Mariota.”
Now as a franchise quarterback in the NFL leading the Tennessee Titans to the playoffs this year, Mariota has paved the way for not just Tua to play a skilled position in the NFL, but Polynesians everywhere. Of course he’s got some high hopes for Tua though. In an interview with ESPN after Tagovailoa’s breakout performance, he went on to say,
“Tua is a stud. He’s the next guy coming up. Proud of him. From where that kid’s come, how he’s grown and how he handled the situation last night. He’s very special. Hopefully he can continue his success. I’m sure you guys saw the interview after the game. That’s who he is.”
After following Mariota’s footsteps at Alabama, when Tua’s time came, he took over the reigns at St. Louis High School and proved that he was special. Colleges from the mainland began to take notice and he was the the top dual-threat quarterback recruit in his class. Tua really solidified his place with scouts during the Nike Elite 11 quarterback showcase, where the best high school QBs in the country go to compete.
Tua showed that he was the best of them all and won MVP. Camp coach and former Super Bowl champion Trent Dilfer pushed him and had some high praise for Tua after calling him the best prospect he’s seen since Andrew Luck.
So how, after a full season at Alabama, has no one has ever heard of this guy?
Before even committing to the Crimson Tide, of course Tua wanted to go to Oregon to follow the path his big bro Mariota set for him. But when the Ducks never offered him a scholarship, Saban and the Crimson Tide swooped in. This would give him the chance to compete at the highest level and Saban made it clear that while Tua might have to wait, he would get his shot.
While other schools were on his list, Tua felt that Alabama was the perfect place for him, not only because of the level of football, but for how he would be able to practice his faith. As a very religious young man, wherever Tua chose to go, his family would move with him. So they picked up their things from Hawaii and moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Fast forward to the National Championship game and it was Nick Saban’s plan all along to unleash Tagovailoa if they really needed him. They did.
Replacing starting QB Jalen Hurts in the second half, Tua won it all for the Crimson Tide with his big play-making ability and heart. Saban told the Washington Post,
“‘We’ve had this in our mind that if we were struggling offensively, that we would give Tua an opportunity, even in the last game.”
Ironically, earlier in the season Tua was pretty frustrated with this whole seniority thing, sitting behind starter Jalen Hurts. Tua reportedly wanted to transfer out out of Tuscaloosa if he didn’t get to play. So in the end, Saban may have not only made the coaching decision that won them the game, but help them keep their best player for the future.
Whether Tua truly wanted to transfer or not, faith truly is a big part of Tua’s life, and he decided to stick it out because he is a man of his word. In his post-game interview, the articulate young man gave all of his gratitude to God. And he has always been like this.
In local interview in high school, Tua spoke about how in five years, his goal isn’t to make it in the NFL, but to build a church and take care of his family.
Ladies and gents, Tua is an inspiration, and most definitely on rise to football stardom.
How can you not root for such a grounded and genuine dude like him? The guy is one of the most humble stars to put his talents on display in years and he’s only getting started.
His story is a prime example of trusting the process. Being patient, working hard, and waiting your turn can lead to the best possible outcome. His talent, attitude and mission to do what he does for his faith makes him very different. Oh yeah, and he can sing too!
While Mariota does his thing in the NFL, Tua is next to take up the torch and will be inspiring a whole new generation of Polynesians in Hawaii and all over to work hard and follow their dreams. One of those players is actually Tua’s little brother, Taulia, who is also a quarterback and building up some major hype. He wants to go to Alabama too.
You already know coming back to campus, Tua is an instant living legend and people will try to do anything to get near him. But he’s already ready to focus in on next season and getting better. Now he’s even getting the attention of girls from Fifth Harmony.
Shout out to Tua, and good luck next season and beyond!