Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa wins 2019 Bobby Bowden Award honoring faith

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa may be injured, but that didn’t stop him from taking home an important postseason award.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

On Monday, the junior was named the winner of the 2019 Bobby Bowden Award, given annually to an NCAA Division-I football player who epitomizes a student-athlete from a faith perspective. According to Sports Illustrated, the press release stated the winner “must conduct himself as an exemplary model in the classroom, on the field, on the campus and in the community.”

The award is named after legendary former Florida State head coach and outspoken follower of Christ Bobby Bowden.

“He’s a fantastic human,” Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian told Sports Illustrated on Sunday. “And forget just No. 13 on the field. It’s who he is off the field that I think is probably more impressive.”

Tagovailoa sustained a season-ending right hip dislocation in November when he was tackled to the ground by two Mississippi State defenders. He was carted off the field and underwent surgery to repair the damage. The injury may have ended Tagovailoa’s college career, as it is not known whether he will return for his senior season. Yet he remained secure in his faith and optimistic about his future in the aftermath.

Tagovailoa, who was raised in Hawaii, is open about his faith on his Twitter account and references 1 Corinthians 2:9 in his bio: “However, as it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’ โ€” the things God has prepared for those who love him …”

CBN News, a faith-based news network, profiled Tagovailoa this September.

“For me, my foundation is my faith and my family,” he told CBN News. “You know, my faith is what keeps me motivated when I can’t even stay motivated myself. I’m just trying to play football, just trying to be able to take care of my family and be able to use my platform for the right reasons.”

Tagovailoa says he prays often on the field and has even been known to share Bible verses with players from other teams.

“The greatest gift that God could’ve ever given us was His Son,” Tagovailoa said to CBN News. “It’s not just a matter of hearing what Jesus Christ is. It’s a matter of getting to know who Jesus Christ is, to really understand and really feel the identity of who you are because of things that He’s done. And I’d say you can only find your identity through Him, if you know Him.”

When he’s healthy, Tagovailoa has been one of the best quarterbacks in college football. He finished in second place for the Heisman Trophy in 2018. In just 32 career games, he’s thrown for 87 touchdowns and rushed for nine more while only throwing 11 career interceptions. He is already Alabama’s career touchdown responsibility leader despite only being a junior. His 87 touchdown passes are the most in Alabama history, and he is third in career passing yards with 7,442.

The Crimson Tide has only lost five games since Tagovailoa arrived in Tuscaloosa. Alabama appeared in the College Football Playoff each of his first two seasons, with Tagovailoa as the starting quarterback last year.

And with all he’s accomplished, perhaps the defining moment of Tagovailoa’s college career game in the National Championship Game during his freshman year, when he came off the bench at halftime to replace QB Jalen Hurts and lead the Tide to a 13-point comeback win over Georgia. He capped the epic comeback with a 41-yard game-winning touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith in overtime.

After his introduction to the college football world on the sport’s biggest stage, Tagovailoa focused his eyes on Jesus.

“First and foremost, I’d just like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” he said in a postgame interview with ESPN’s Maria Taylor. “With Him, all things are possible.”

In Tagovailoa’s absence, the Crimson Tide were not able to earn a spot in this season’s College Football Playoff, where it had been a fixture for the last five seasons. Alabama instead played in the Citrus Bowl on Wednesday, and defeated Michigan, 35-16. Tagovailoa was with his team in Orlando, Fla., possibly his last trip as an Alabama player.

RELATED STORIES:
Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa undergoes hip surgery, says ‘God always has a plan’
Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa keeps foundation on faith while breaking records
Alabama freshman Tua Tagovailoa pulls of miracle comeback win, thanks Jesus
NEW PODCAST: Charlie Ward – 1993 Heisman Trophy Winner, Former NBA Player
QB Trevor Lawrence leads Clemson back to national title game, guided by Scripture