The Lasting Impact of Tua Tagovailoa

Tua Tagovailoa wasn’t always perfect, but he tried to be. From the famous 2nd & 26 to his final play in Crimson and white, Tagovailoa gave it his all, no matter the consequences. He was a team guy. A family-first guy. One who believes anything is possible through faith. In times of greatness, there was heartbreak, but Tagovailoa went out his way. 


 

It was time. The Hawaiian prince adopted by the state of Alabama said his goodbyes. As he entered the press room at Mal Moore Athletic Complex with no crutches in hand, no limp visible to the eye, he sat waiting his turn, watching the most influential figure in recent history for Alabama—his legendary coach—address the media.

As Nick Saban made his opening statement, Tua Tagovailoa sat behind his right shoulder, with an occasional smile, his family in attendance just enjoying the moment. It was his final time in the room as a student-athlete.

“Tua has probably had as much of an impact on our program here as any player that we’ve ever had,” Saban said. “And I’m not just talking about as a football player.”

Tagovailoa said his farewell to college football in one of the most intriguing ways. In a moment of many unknowns, he sent a message.

His rehab from a season-ending hip injury in mid-November was working.

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Nobody knows for sure if Tagovailoa will be ready to play when week one rolls around. According to some experts, he won’t be able to participate in football activity until April. No pro day. No combine. No opportunity to showcase his skill to NFL scouts. He just has to hope the people who ultimately control where he’ll end up take into account all that he’s accomplished at Alabama.

We know he can throw. We know he can come through in big moments. But can he stay healthy?

He’s undergone two tightrope procedures, one on each ankle. There was a knee injury. And there was a hand injury during spring practice. That’s not why people are questioning his health, it’s the hip dislocation and posterior wall fracture.

The injury he suffered is more likely to happen in automobile accidents than on a football field. Most people will recover. They will go on to live a productive life, one with no boundaries on what they can do. But Tagovailoa isn’t just anyone. He’s a generational talent that’s taken the Crimson Tide to new heights. A quarterback that set a new standard.

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He’s a top-five draft talent and several NFL teams are in the market for a quarterback. At least one is bound to pick him, right?

Most likely, yes. But not so fast.

There’s no guarantee he will be the same player. Yes, the doctors are impressed with his recovery, but what’s going to happen when he gets hit? When he has to make a football move?

The answer is simple: we don’t know.

The only thing we do know is leaving Alabama was the right decision.

And staying at Alabama gains him nothing.

He leaves Tuscaloosa with a career quarterback rating of 93.4, ranking him the best in the history of the metric (which was instituted in 2004). He set the school record for passing touchdowns (87) and 300-yard games (10). He finished with 7,442 passing yards (3rd All-Time in Alabama history), set single-season records for 3,966 passing yards (2018), passing touchdowns (43) and holds a single-game record with six passing touchdowns against Ole Miss (2018).

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He could have stayed and earned one more College Football Playoff appearance, but the risk of injury is high. There’s no need to test that without a seven-figure contract.

As of Tuesday, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, Jedrick Wills Jr. and Xavier McKinney have announced their departures. Alex Leatherwood, Dylan Moses, Josh McMillion and Devonta Smith have decided to stay their senior season.

The good news for the Crimson Tide is that a lot of freshmen were forced to play a massive role in 2019, which translates to a 2020 roster with a lot of experience. Mac Jones was impressive, replacing Tagovailoa. Against Auburn and Michigan, Jones threw for 662 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions. The two interceptions were both for touchdowns in the Iron Bowl, but he remained calm and collected winning the team over.

Bryce Young, an SI-All American and ranked by some as the No. 1 quarterback in the recruiting class of 2020, is set to start classes on Wednesday.

So, Alabama will be just fine.

Tagovailoa changed the way Alabama plays football. It’s no longer “run the ball and bully the opponent until they surrender.” Their game, as a whole, is now beautiful and electrifying to watch.

And maybe that’s a good thing.

They built a team that consistently helps everyone stay glued to the game, afraid they’ll miss something if they take their eye off the screen. Even if it’s just for a split second.

Alabama and Tagovailoa were a match made in heaven. They were great for each other, but at some point, the journey had to end. Tagovailoa won’t join the long list of players who decided to stay their senior season, but he doesn’t need to.

He accomplished everything they did with one less year.

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He never talked about his talents, he let his athleticism and game do the talking. He remained humble and selfless, even in moments he could have become the main topic. He never asked for the spotlight, but he got it.

In the end, because of it, Tagovailoa became the most memorable of Alabama players.

 

 

 

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