Tua Tagovailoa’s decision to go to the NFL and potentially become a millionaire was not the moment of celebration it is for most players. It was the end of an emotionally exhausting stretch of time, one that could only be solved by his faith.
The wear and tear of the last month, when Alabama’s superstar quarterback was tasked with deciding to enter the 2020 NFL Draft or stay at the University of Alabama, showed on Tagovailoa and his family as he announced that he would go to the NFL.
Tagovailoa’s time at Alabama clearly impacted him, as he thanked everyone from academic advisors to medical staff to media relations personnel and all of his teammates, “starting lineup to scout team.”
Those moments made this decision agonizing for him and his family.
“It was just a hard decision all around,” Tagovailoa said. “We prayed a lot about it.
“We seeked guidance from a good amount of pastors. My dad is really good friends with Pastor Chris from Church of the Highlands. I got to seek counsel from my pastors back home.”
Tagovailoa’s strong feelings for UA make sense, given what transpired since he got to campus as the wunderkind five-star prospect from Ewa Beach, Hawaii.
“My three years at the University of Alabama have been the epitome of a roller coaster,” Tagovailoa said. “I’ve had a fair share of many ups and a handful of downs. I couldn’t be happier to know that with all the success and failures I’ve had here at the university, it has prepared me for life in general. I can’t express how grateful I am to have attended the greatest school in college. But the biggest thing I remember with my time, here are the memories that I’ve made with all my friends, family, and loved ones.
“My love for the University of Alabama, our coaches, our fans, and my teammates has made this especially hard for me.”
The ride started with nothing but ups, as he dazzled in garbage time behind Jalen Hurts just to come through on the biggest of stages: as a halftime substitute in the national championship game, ultimately winning the title on a second-and-26 touchdown pass that is forever etched into college football history.
The downs — injuries — were quick to strike in what were still dazzling sophomore and junior seasons. Two ankle surgeries and a hip surgery robbed him of time in what is already a record-setting career, as he exits with the school’s career passing touchdowns record (and many others) in hand.
As Tagovailoa departs, UA coach Nick Saban will remember him as a person just as much as the quarterback.
“Tua has probably had as much of an impact on our program here. He’s got a great character and he’s great leader,” Saban said. “He’s done a wonderful job in the classroom. There’s a spirit about him that has impacted myself and everybody around him in a very, very positive way. He’s had great accomplishments on the field, but you probably don’t really fully understand the significance of the contributions that he’s made off the field with his teammates, and the people who are around him every day.”
Although he will not be on its field as a player again, Tagovailoa is far from gone from UA. Saban said Tagovailoa is on track to graduate, needed 17 credits to earn his degree. Tagovailoa also pointed out his family is not leaving the program, with his younger brother Taulia to continue his UA career in 2020.
“I plan to stay close to the university and always be a part of Alabama,” Tagovailoa said.
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