Tua Tagovailoa honors his family’s name with every snap he takes.
Faith, family and football have been ever-present in Tua Tagovailoa‘s stride towards greatness.
From his days playing Pop Warner in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, to emerging as a sensational sophomore at the Saint Louis School in Honolulu, Tagovailoa carried with him tremendous expectations to one day make the world know of his family’s name and where they come from. The Tagovailoa name is only a few generations old in its current form, but Tua has fulfilled his late grandfather’s prophecy.
Tua Tagovailoa successfully fulfilled his late grandfather’s prophecy.
American Samoan chief Seu Tagovailoa prophesied one day his oldest grandson Tua would make the Tagovailoa name known worldwide. Fate would have it on Jan. 8, 2018, a 19-year-old, left-handed quarterback from Hawaii became an SEC legend for the Alabama Crimson Tide in Atlanta. It’s stranger than fiction, but Seu knew that day was coming, even if he didn’t live to see it himself.
Tagovailoa missed his grandfather’s funeral to start his first game for Saint Louis as a sophomore. Playing for something bigger than himself, Tagovailoa went from a talented, but raw quarterback prospect to the winner of Trent Dilfer‘s Elite 11 camp and the No. 1 quarterback in the country. With the guidance of his other grandfather, Tagovailoa picked Alabama over USC for college.
Leaving his peaceful Pacific Island homeland for the Deep South would have been too big of a culture shock for most college even-keeled freshmen to handle, but not Tagovailoa. Every step of the way, he had his faith, family and name to help him carve out an unforgettable college career. How else does a Hawaiian become the most beloved Alabama quarterback since Ken Stabler?
As a true freshman, Tagovailoa had to bide his time behind Jalen Hurts, playing almost exclusively in blow-out situations. He waited patiently for his turn to flip the script. Facing a 13-0 deficit to Georgia in the national championship, Alabama head coach Nick Saban knew what had to be done. From then on, it was Tua Time. Second-and-26 later, the world knew of the Tagovailoa name.
No, it wasn’t all smooth sailing from then on out for Tua. Finishing as the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2018 due to a poor performance against Georgia in the SEC Championship, it would be Hurts who came in to save the day for the Crimson Tide to defeat those pesky Dawgs. A Clemson Tigers buzzsaw awaited Tagovailoa and company in Santa Clara, California, as was soul-crushing defeat.
By the time Tagovailoa entered his junior year, it was all about which NFL team was going to tank for him. What about the out-of-water Miami Dolphins or the Cincinnati Bengals? Tagovailoa was going to be the bona fide No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft…until he wasn’t.
Everything started to unravel for him in the rivalry game vs. the Tennessee Volunteers.
Though it was another easy Crimson Tide victory, Tagovailoa suffered a high ankle sprain and underwent a minor medical procedure known as tight rope surgery. He was back and ready to go just in time to lose to eventual Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow and the vaunted LSU Tigers. Fate would have it he played his final collegiate snap the very next week vs. Mississippi State.
In a blowout down in Starkville, one more series before halftime turned into a nightmare and the end of an era in Alabama football. Tagovailoa was tackled by two Bulldog defenders, breaking his nose, suffering a concussion and worst of all, dislocating his hip.
This wasn’t just a season-ending injury, but potentially a career-ending one if not for Dr. E. Lyle Cain Jr.’s brilliance in Birmingham.
With his family now relocated to the Yellowhammer State and his younger brother Taulia serving as his backup’s backup at Alabama, it was a time when Tagovailoa’s faith was truly tested. Rehabbing is brutal, as is not being on the field with your teammates.
Would Tagovailoa fully recover? Should he return to school? Should he turn pro?
With the guidance of his family, Tagovailoa forewent his senior year at Alabama and declared for the 2020 NFL Draft. Fate would have it not being able to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine in February would be the least of his issues. The whole world shut down in mid-March and Tagovailoa had a draft to prepare for.
Relocating to Nashville to be with his quarterback mentor Dilfer, Tagovailoa figured out how to put together his own pro day, even if his alma mater wasn’t able to do that for him due to the global pandemic. With a fixed hip, tremendous confidence at the podium and a spiral to die for, the Tagovailoa name would be one we would all talk about come Draft Day.
The payoff had arrived.
At his family’s compound in Ohatchee, Alabama, Tagovailoa became the No. 5 overall pick by the Dolphins in the 2020 NFL Draft. Billed as the next Drew Brees, Tagovailoa not only carries the weight of his family’s name with him, but he now becomes the next Miami quarterback to try his luck to see if he is the heir apparent to Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino. Don’t count Tua out.
Thus far in Tagovailoa’s football career, he has accepted every challenge placed in front of him and he has conquered every challenge triumphantly, fulfilling his late grandfather’s prophecy. Even if the Dolphins end up chasing Marino for another decade, the name Tagovailoa has become synonymous with faith, family and football.
It’s a legacy forged in hard work, sacrifice and humility.
With a bright future ahead of him, Tagovailoa has already made a name for himself and his family.
“TUA” premieres on FOX on Sunday, Sept. 6 at 4:00 p.m. ET.