Alabama's Hawaiian QB signee talks attention, fried chicken

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Tua Tagovailoa has found plenty to like about the South, including the fried chicken and the abundance of churches. Other things mystify him, like when Alabama fans already recognize him.

''It's pretty crazy,'' said Tagovailoa, a much talked about quarterback signee from Honolulu, Hawaii. ''These people are willing to cross the road while it's a green light, you know, just to come and say `Hi' to you. So it's like, whoa.''

It's what happens when you arrive on the football-mad Alabama campus as the nation's top-rated dual-threat quarterback and a five-star prospect. Making the freshman's arrival more celebrated by `Bama fans, before Tagovailoa enrolled in January starter Jalen Hurts was the Tide's only scholarship passer. Four-star prospect Mac Jones is expected to join them on campus later this month.

Tagovailoa seems bemused by the hype, preferring to note that he hasn't done anything in college to earn it yet. The job is clearly Hurts' to lose since he was Southeastern Conference offensive player of the year as a freshman, though his passing production did slip late in the season.

Tagovailoa (TAHNG'-oh-veye-loh-a) is often called ''Tua T.'' by folks who can't pronounce his name.

He has an impressive resume out of Marcus Mariota's alma mater, Saint Louis School, and could conceivably make a run at the job.

Though he isn't talking about taking anyone's job.

''I'm just trying to get settled with school so far,'' Tagovailoa said. ''This is my fourth week, and I'm trying to get situated with everything before we even start to think that far. I'm just trying to worry about what I have to worry about, and I'll let Coach decide what's right. We'll go from there.''

The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder set the Hawaii high school record with 8,158 career passing yards. He passed for 3,932 yards and 43 touchdowns as a senior.

Now, he's rooming with the Tide's top-rated recruit, running back Najee Harris, and using an app to navigate campus. The only times Tagovailoa had previously spent on the mainland was for football camps, where he was twice named MVP in 2016.

The first coach to offer him a scholarship was then-Southern California head coach Steve Sarkisian, now Alabama's offensive coordinator. He said Alabama's recruitment took him by surprise.

''I was really shocked that they offered me to start off with, because I didn't know they would have even found me,'' Tagovailoa said. ''I'm all the way across the map, and they decided to offer. . I just wanted to play for the best and they were No. 1 as well, so that's why I came here.''

He insists that the culture change from the 4,300-mile move was less of a shock, saying the hospitality and friendliness are similar in both places. The food was an adjustment from his favored dish kalua pig. He developed a particular fondness for fried chicken, which he pats his stomach and says is now a no-no.

''I think everything over here is fried,'' Tagovailoa said.

Welcome to Alabama, Tua T.

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More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org

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