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Tua 'Excited' After NFL Debut

Miami Dolphins first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa made his NFL debut in Week 6 against the New York Jets and he discussed the significance of the moment

Tua Tagovailoa is very big on family, as everyone who watched the documentary on him last month saw, and it's why it was no surprise when he revealed he FaceTimed his parents when he went back onto the field after making his NFL debut in the Miami Dolphins' 24-0 victory against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday.

“It was a very special moment for me because my parents weren’t here," Tagovailoa said. "I couldn’t really remember where we ended our drive at, so I tried to sit close to where we ended our drive at and I ended up FaceTiming my parents because they couldn’t be here. That’s usually how it goes. I usually talk to my parents after a game. My parents usually never miss my game. That’s what I did. I went out there and I talked to them.”

For the record, the Dolphins' final drive officially ended at the 26-yard line after Matt Breida ran for 5 yards on the final play.

That came on Tagovailoa's fifth NFL play.

After handing off on his first snap, Tagovailoa then completed his two pass attempts, a 2-yard pass to running back Patrick Laird and a 7-yard pass to wide receiver Jakeem Grant for a first down.

Tagovailoa's first NFL pass came after he faked a handoff and ran a naked bootleg.

"It was a great play call by Chan (offensive coordinator Chan Gailey) to kind of get things going for me," Tagovailoa said. "It was an easy completion. Everyone can say that I can roll out and throw it to someone who’s 2 yards down the field, but you gotta deal with pressure. There’s just a lot going on in such a little play like that. But a lot of credit with that easy completion goes to Chan and then also it goes to our O-line. Our O-line played their butts off today.”

It was just a week ago, after the Dolphins' 43-17 victory against the San Francisco 49ers that head coach Brian Flores was asked about putting Tagovailoa in the late stages of a game already decided and he said he didn't see much value in it.

After Tua's debut, Flores joked with a reporter that it was his question that convinced him to do it.

Whatever it was, it was a move that clearly was popular with a portion of the Dolphins fan base that wants to see the former University of Alabama star in the starting lineup as soon as possible.

The crowd at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday was announced at 10,772, as the Dolphins continue to play it safe because of COVID-19 concerns, but those on hand made themselves heard with their reaction to Tua going into the game with 2:27 left in the fourth quarter.

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Tagovailoa's teammates also were happy for him.

"I was just excited for Tua," defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said. "It was his first NFL competition, first few snaps, everything. He’s a guy I have got a little bit of a relationship with and he works hard every day, so it’s good to him get out there and make a few plays, do his thing a little bit, just a glimpse of what’s going to be to come, hopefully. So I was just happy to see that for him."

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who threw three touchdown passes for a second consecutive game to help the Dolphins even their record at 3-3, played cheerleader on the sideline when Tua went in, encouraging the fans to make even more noise.

"I think he was happy to be out there," Fitzpatrick said. "It was nice to get a couple of throws in, too. The naked in your own end zone isn’t the easiest of plays and he went in and completed that one and then completed the third down, so I think that was a cool moment for him. Just the reception, too, of the fans that were here. And everybody on the sideline. We’re all excited to him get out there."

It was Tagovailoa's first game action since Nov. 16 since he sustained his major hip injury in a game against Mississippi State.

The game Sunday marked the culmination of an impressive comeback that not everyone thought was possible at the time of his injury.

Tagovailoa said he wasn't nervous about going into the game, but definitely excited. And appreciative of the reception he got.

“Yeah, I definitely could hear it," he said. "There’s nothing else playing in the stadium, so I could hear that. And that was awesome. But to just be out there with my teammates being my first time and getting the support and love from them, I think that was super awesome.

"And then you have a 16-year vet like Fitz, who has no animosity toward it as well, who’s just been supportive that entire time. Good drive, bad drive, he comes to the sideline and just talks through his process with why he did some things. I’m very fortunate to have a mentor like him who is just very encouraging on the field and then this guy is like … he’s just very personable off the field as well. I could say a lot about him, but just won’t have enough time.”

Tagovailoa called his first NFL experience "really fun," though you could sense it would have been even more special with his parents in the stadium.

During an upbeat Zoom media session, Tagovailoa appeared to get emotional once, and that was when he was asked about the nature of his conversation with his parents.

“I think the most important thing that came out of my conversation with my parents," he said, "was just that they were happy to see me out there and playing again, especially with what happened last year prior to the injury and whatnot, so … yeah.”