New Role a Time of Reflection for Tua
The overwhelming emotion for Tua Tagovailoa upon finding out he would take over as the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins understandably was excitement.
But there also was a sense of appreciation for arriving at this point almost a year after his career was sidetracked by the hip injury he sustained in a game against Mississippi State.
It was an injury severe enough that it not only ended his brilliant career at the University of Alabama but cast doubt as to his future.
His appointment as the new Dolphins starter isn't the finish line for Tagovailoa by any means, but it most definitely represents a significant milestone.
“Well, it’s definitely been a journey," Tagovailoa said. "I definitely think of that injury, when I got hurt, and then the process leading up to being able to walk, being able to do football drills and just do things in general. I definitely do reflect on that process that I went through. I’m definitely blessed to be able to still be here and play the game that I grew up dreaming to play.”
Tagovailoa's first start will come Nov. 1 against the Los Angeles Rams at Hard Rock Stadium.
He will take over a team that's sitting with a 3-3 record and one game behind the Buffalo Bills atop the AFC East heading into its bye.
When he was asked about his goals for the rest of the season upon taking over for veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tagovailoa spoke only in terms of the team.
"My goals are to do whatever I can do to help this team become successful, especially our offense," Tagovailoa said. "Everyone knows ‘Fitz’ has done a tremendous job. I don’t know. I just feel like I’m definitely lucky. I’m blessed to be in the situation that I’m in, where I can continue to learn from a guy like ‘Fitz,’ then also having the mind of (Offensive Coordinator) Chan (Gailey), him helping kind of put me and the offense, I guess, in a good situation. I think that’s what’s going to be important the next couple of weeks and the entire season.”
Tagovailoa made his NFL debut Sunday when he came in late in the Dolphins' 24-0 victory against the New York Jets. He played five snaps and completed each of his pass attempts, for 2 yards to running back Patrick Laird and for 7 yards and a first down to wide receiver Jakeem Grant.
After the game, he returned to the field and sat down at the 15-yard line, from where he called his parents to talk about the moment. Of course, he called his parents as well to inform them he was taking over at quarterback and shared his father's funny reaction.
"They didn’t believe me for a little bit," Tua said. "I think my dad kind of joked about it. He was like, ‘after two plays? After two throws they want to put you in now?’ (laughter) So it was exciting but my parents were ... yeah, they were very excited, especially my mom. For mothers, it’s just different when you see your son get hurt and then given the opportunity now. It was cool.”
Tagovailoa has spoken since he joined the Dolphins about the privilege of being able to learn from a veteran like Fitzpatrick, and that certainly won't change now that the inevitable quarterback switch has taken place.
"I think with having someone like ‘Fitz', you just don’t think within what you know," Tua said. "You start thinking of what other people are doing, the defense, how they align to stack formations, how fronts can dictate coverages. Just things that I didn’t really need to worry about in college, that I think of now. It really is about the little things.
"It’s really a big blessing that I have someone like him. It’s not like it stops here. It’s a continuous competition with ‘Fitz.’ What’s so cool about it is that I can continue to grow and continue to learn from him through this process.”