How Tua Tagovailoa went from Hawaiian star to backup quarterback to Alabama’s national championship hero

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Kevin C. Cox/Getty

On Monday, Tua Tagovailoa became an overnight star by helping Alabama win the college football championship, 26-23, over Georgia.

As a freshman at Alabama, Tagovailoa got into games occasionally this season, but he was summoned on the game’s biggest stage and delivered, throwing three touchdowns to lead the Crimson Tide to victory.

Now, it appears the young quarterback, who was a sensation in Hawai’i and five-star recruit growing up, is about to become the next big thing in college football.

Here’s all about Tagovailoa and the path that led him to his breakout game.


Tua Tagovailoa checked into the second half of the college football championship game on Monday and led Alabama to a 26-23 win.

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Streeter Lecka/Getty

Tagovailoa threw the game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter, then tossed a gorgeous 41-yard touchdown in overtime to seal the deal.


Tagovailoa’s heroic performance may have been destiny. According to a 2015 Sports Illustrated profile, growing up in Hawai’i, Tagovailoa used to sleep with a football in his arms at a young age.

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Ryan Wright/YouTube

Source: Sports Illustrated


In fact, Tagovailoa was football-obsessed from the beginning. He used to go over his rec league games with his grandfather, even once arriving at 3 a.m. for study session.

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utrhighlightvideos/YouTube

Source: Sports Illustrated


According to SI, by his sophomore year, Tagovailoa was 6-foot-1, 210 lb. and an athletic marvel — a big arm, accurate, and quick, with the ability to keep plays alive.

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KHON2 News/YouTube

Source: Sports Illustrated


Tagovailoa was inspired by the rise of Marcus Mariota, who helped put Hawaiian football on the map. However, according to SI, most thought Tagovailoa was an even better young prospect than Mariota.

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KHON 2 News/YouTube

Source: Sports Illustrated


Four games into the 2014 season, he got a recruitment call from UCLA’s Jim Mora. He later got recruited by the likes of USC, Ole Miss, Texas Tech, and more.

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KHON2 News/YouTube

Source: Sports Illustrated


To the surprise of many, Tagovailoa chose Alabama after a visit, citing similar cultural values as Hawai’i. He said he felt comfortable with Alabama.

Source: SEC Country


Though Tagovailoa was Jalen Hurts’ backup this season, he still got a decent amount of playing time because of Alabama’s large margin of victories. He threw 53 passes for 400 yards and rushed another 100 yards during his freshman season.

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Ronald Martinez/Getty

Tagovailoa isn’t just a talented quarterback — he is apparently a great singer, too!

Source: Brent Key


His future is unknown. While Tagovailoa made a strong big to start next season, Alabama may have a tough time turning away from Jalen Hurts.

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Former Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin told Dan Patrick that he thinks Tagovailoa would have left Alabama this offseason if he had not played in the championship game.

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Streeter Lecka/Getty

Source: “Dan Patrick Show


Either way, Tagovailoa is now a college star, and the football world will be eagerly watching to see what’s next.


Now, check out which schools rule college sports…

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The 30 most dominant college football programs >