Tua Tagovailoa: "This is Probably Going to be the Biggest Decision of My Life"

Christopher Walsh

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — University of Alabama junior quarterback met with reporters on Thursday afternoon and talked about everything from his injury to his upcoming decision on whether to forego his final year of eligibility and enter the 2020 NFL Draft. 

"I feel this is something that’s bigger than me," he said. 

Tagovailoa said there's no timetable for his decision on the draft, it could come at any point between now and the Jan. 20 deadline to declare.

He had his first rehab Wednesday in Birmingham and said everyone was surprised with what he could do in terms of movement.

Tagovailoa noted that he talked to Bo Jackson before the Iron Bowl, but added that their hip injuries are “totally different” situations.

He closed with “This is probably going to be the biggest decision of my life ... It’s a really, really big decision, man. Everyone wants to know," and told someone he liked his sweater when heading out the door.

Tagovailoa was moving around with the use of crutches and wore dinosaur Christmas pajamas. 

Here's the full transcript with accompanying video:

What did you think of the outpour of support from fans?

“Yeah, man. It’s been awesome. It’s been people from all over the world that have sent us letters. There’s people from London, Singapore, people from Australia, New Zealand, all the way to Hawaii and then got some letters from Japan. So, it’s not just fans that are watching us play football but just I guess everyone outside of the SEC. I’ve had a lot of head coaches from teams that we’ve played get in contact with us, too, wishing us well. It’s been really awesome.”

Are you considering any options other than the two obvious for your future? And what conversations have you had with Nick Saban about that?

“I’ve had conversations with Coach Saban. Kind of what I said the last time on TV with Kirk Herbstreit is pretty much the same thing Coach Saban told me. Those are the two things that I felt I needed to take into consideration, and it’s something I still need to sit down and talk about with my family. I haven’t really had that opportunity because of the rehab that I need to go through and then I’m still trying to finish up my school.”

Do you have a timetable for when you want to make that decision?

“I don’t. That’s a good question. I don’t. I’ve said this before, the decision could be tomorrow, the decision could be on (Jan.) 20th when the deadline is. So, anytime between that, I’ll probably make a decision.”

When the injury occurred, did you realize how serious it was in the moment?

“I couldn’t comprehend anything. I had a concussion at the same time I was on the ground, and I think my body was just in such a traumatic state that I couldn’t really feel too much. I just know that -- well, from what I can remember -- with every little movement I made on the ground I was hurting. That’s all I can remember.”

How difficult is it to go through this?

“I firmly believe in the Bible and the Bible says you walk by faith and not by sight, and that’s pretty much what I’m holding onto. Just trust in the good Lord and he’s the best doctor for me and what I believe in. And I believe all these guys that I'm surrounded by, our athletic trainers  you've got Jeff Allen, Ryan Vicknair, Jeremy Gsell  and all these other guys that have been very, very helpful to me with my rehab processes throughout the years. I feel this is something that’s bigger than me. I still feel like I’ll be able to come back 100-percent and be able to play to the capability that I’m able to play at.”

Given your experience and your competitive spirit, what would be your message to any teammates thinking about whether to play in a bowl game?  

"For me, I think it’s different. With a lot of the guys that are draft-eligible, you can’t really tell them what they should or shouldn't do. I think the best thing for me as a teammate would be is to support them in whatever decision they decide to make. It's their choice and they've worked hard enough and they've worked long enough to get to where they are in their life. And if they decide to not play, to sit out, I think that's a decision they need to sit down with Coach (Saban) and make. I think the best thing I can do and the rest of our teammates can do is support them in that decision."

How tough was it to watch the loss at Auburn?

"Well, it's really tough being able to watch your guys go out there and play and not be able to do anything to help them. The only thing I could do is try to encourage them. But it hurts. At the same time, we still had an opportunity to win the game. I think Mac Jones did a tremendous job, he fought through adversity and I think that was the biggest question for everyone, how would he do despite adversity. And I think he did a tremendous job. That was probably the only thing I could've done, is support them. And I didn't go to practice that week not just because I had to get done with rehab and whatnot, but it's pretty hard playing with these guys for about 3 years and then you get hurt and you go to practice and the only thing you can do is watch. You can't really do too much else."

Whether it’s here or in the NFL, is your plan and expectation to play football next season?

“Yeah, I want to play any time. I’ve played hurt many times over the course of the two years that I’ve been the starter here. But I’d like to say this is just a totally different situation. This is a unique situation. This isn’t something that I can rush. If I want to play to my full potential, I know that I can’t just come back and play on it as if it were my ankle. It’s just something that I need to take into consideration. Me wanting to play, I think a lot that has to go into my decision-making, too, as to whether I stay or leave.”

If it looks like you’re still a top-10, top-15 draft pick, would it be tough to pass that up?

“Yeah, I think that’d be tough to pass up. But I think there’s a lot more to it than that in some aspects. I don’t want to say too much because what me and family talk about, we kind of want to be with me and my family.”

What’s your rehab like?

We did your first rehab yesterday, and they were surprised with the amount of movement we could do with resistance, rotating the leg out and bringing it back in against resistance and being able to lift the leg up. Then, just when I come over here and get treatment, do ultrasounds, try and do everything they can so blood is circulating down there. You know the normal things they would do if I had injured my ankle.

In terms of timetable, how confident are you from what the doctors tell you that you will be able to play again regardless of when and be your old self?

I don’t think I’d say I’d be the same again because there’s like metal in here now. That I lose some rotation inward. So I won’t be able to twist it as much inward and whatnot. I won’t need that as much running, as just opening up your hip. So as for what the doctors have said, they’ve said they expect full recovery. Will I be able to play football again at 100 percent I just won’t be able to rotate it the same way internally. 

Who have you reached out to regarding the injury?

Well, I’ve been talking to my doctor. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to Bo Jackson. He gave me some insight, of not trying to rush the process you know of trying to get back. People say that our situations are similar, and they’re totally different regarding our hips. And I had the opportunity to talk to him before the game, before Auburn, it was a good conversation we had about the same thing, looking more at the longevity of playing. 

Have you had a chance to reflect with your freshman class?

The reflecting part, I don’t think we’ve had much time to just sit down and reflect. Everything just moves so fast around here. We’ve gotten to talk to a couple of guys, or I’ve gotten to talk to a couple of guys in our class, to try and see what their thoughts are, either staying or leaving. It’s the same answer you get, but you still have to talk to them. They still have to talk to their family about it. You know, they’re just continuing to ask. The coaches and all those other guys, to get advice upon whether or not it’s good for them to stay. 

There’s a been a lot of speculation about what you should do. Is there anything you would like to say in your own words about how big of a decision it’ll be?

Yeah, this is probably going to be the biggest decision of my life. This is why I seek advice from what I believe and why I seek advice from my parents. But truly the decision comes down to me. If I feel like it’s right for me to stay, or if it’s time for me too. It’s just a really, really big decision and everybody just wants to know. So that’s what makes it even bigger.