Fall 2021 SS Magazine

20 NFL players to watch in 2020: Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa

Through Sept. 13, the first Sunday of the 2020 NFL season,
Sports Spectrum is highlighting one Christ-following player each day for 20 days.

When Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa went down in November with a hip injury in a game against Mississippi State, it was speculated that he may never play football again. The official diagnosis was a dislocated hip and posterior wall fracture — an injury typically seen in someone who’d been in a serious car accident.

But nearly 10 months after sustaining the injury, he’s on the cusp of his first NFL game. Drafted fifth overall by the Miami Dolphins in April, Tagovailoa enters 2020 as the team’s quarterback of the future, but its backup in the present. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick will lead the Dolphins for the foreseeable future, and Tagovailoa will be ready if needed.

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That Tagovailoa has been a full participant throughout training camp and Dolphins practices is a good sign, but the team appears to be taking its time in getting him on the field for significant action. He was listed on the team’s first injury report of the season, which came out earlier this week saying Tagovailoa was full participant despite a hip injury.

Dolphins head coach Brian Flores says the team is taking his young QB’s hip into account.

“We’re at 10 months. It was a pretty serious injury. He looks good, though. … He’s healthy. He’s moving around to his right and to his left. But yes, that’s part of the conversation,” Flores said last week.

The Dolphins are excited about Tagovailoa’s potential after watching him become one of college’s football greatest players.

In 2018, as a true freshman, Tagovailoa replaced Alabama starting quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second half of the College Football Playoff National Championship after Hurts suffered a game-ending injury. Tagovailoa went on to heroically throw the game-winning 41-yard touchdown pass in overtime to defeat the Georgia Bulldogs. He was named the Offensive MVP of the game and would remain in the spotlight for the remainder of his college career.

Tagovailoa became Alabama’s starter in 2018, when he threw for 3,966 yards, 43 touchdowns and only six interceptions, and finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting as a sophomore. In nine games before the injury last year, he thew for 2,840 yards, 33 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

But Tagovailoa’s college career was met with bumps and bruises too, whether it was a high ankle sprain in the 2018 SEC Championship Game, a 44-16 drubbing from Clemson in the 2018-19 National Championship Game, or the season-ending hip injury in 2019. Yet through it all, the faith-driven QB remained focused on God.

“For me, my foundation is my faith and my family,” Tagovailoa told CBN News last year. “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.”

Upon joining the Dolphins, he made it clear who takes the No. 1 spot in his life. Tagovailoa chose “1” as his Dolphins jersey number to represent the importance of God’s status above all else. “For the Audience of 1,” Tagovailoa said in a jersey-reveal tweet:

Throughout hurdles and triumphs, faith in God is what keeps Tagovailoa grounded. In a world that idolizes trophies and championships, the Tagovailoa family continuously reflects the limelight back to God.

“Don’t let this success get to us,” Tagovailoa said to his family in “Tua Talks,” a miniseries leading up to the premiere of “TUA” (a documentary set to debut Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on FOX). “The fame and success — that’s not who we are. We got to where we are because not only one another, but because of our faith we have in God.”

Miami opens the 2020 season Sunday in New England. Tagovailoa isn’t expected to play, but should anything happen to the 37-year-old Fitzpatrick, the much-heralded rookie is next in line.

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