Tua Understands Pressure ... And How to Deal With It
Tua Tagovailoa recounted his first conversations, both my phone and in person, with Miami Dolphins Hall of Famer Dan Marino, when he conducted a Zoom media session Thursday.
For Dolphins fans, they were connections between the greatest player in franchise history and the one they hope will become his worthy successor — some 20 years after the fact.
Not much is expected of Tagovailoa in the eyes of fans, except merely becoming another Dan Marino.
It's an awful lot of pressure for anybody, let alone a 22-year-old who has yet to play a down in the NFL.
Tagovailoa certainly understands the expectations and the pressure that comes with being "The Man."
"I think the best way to handle it is really not pay attention to it, if that makes sense," Tagovailoa said. "Not being someone who says I don't like it or I don't care about it. I understand that it's there. But I just feel like the main focus is being able to get into my playbook, build relationships with the guys on the team and just focus with what we've got to do inside the building. Just like almost every athlete has said.
"The fans are going to say whatever. All that outside noise. Really, we just have to pay attention to what we're trying to do and accomplish as a team here in the Dolphins organization."
Head coach Brian Flores, offensive coordinator Chan Gailey and quarterbacks coach Robby Brown all have taken their turn since the start of training camp in trying to temper expectations regarding Tagovailoa, all of them pointing out the learning curve that comes with playing quarterback in the NFL as a rookie.
For his part, as he did after being selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft, Tagovailoa was deferential when he talked about his prospects for playing in the 2020 season.
"I definitely believe Coach Flo, Chan, Robby, all those guys that are going to be making their decisions, they're going to put the team in the best position they think is possible," Tagovailoa said referring to his head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. "If that means supporting someone or not, that's what it's going to be."
Tagovailoa wore a jersey number 14 for his Zoom session as a tribute to new teammate Ryan Fitzpatrick.
His own number will be 1 after he wore 13 at Alabama. That number, of course, has been retired by the Dolphins organization after being worn by Marino.
"The first time I met Dan, I think Dan reached out to me after I got drafted, which was super awesome," Tagovailoa said. "That was cool. But the first day I got into the building, Dan was in our meeting and got to talk to Dan. He's also a really down-to-earth guy. Someone you can just chat with.
"For someone who pretty much is the talk of the town, he's super humble. He doesn't hold his head high or walk around here like he's the man, which he is. He's super humble."
Marino always will have a special place in the hearts of Dolphins fans, but right now Tua is "The Man."
And right now it's all about doing everything he can to prepare for the 2020 season so he can start living up to those incredible expectations.