For about three hours on Sunday afternoon, they were adversaries on a football field. But what bonds them together will last into eternity.
After Tua Tagovailoa’s Miami Dolphins defeated Bryce Young’s Carolina Panthers, 42-21, on Sunday, the two former title-winning star quarterbacks at the University of Alabama shared a long and heartfelt embrace.
College to the League.
Respect 🤝 pic.twitter.com/volXhx1r8n
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) October 15, 2023
“I think he’s doing a tremendous job,” Tagovailoa said in his postgame press conference about Young. “There’s going to be times where you’re going to make mistakes because you’re a rookie, and there’s things that when he plays the next game that he wished he knew this game, and he’ll continue to grow from that.
“I just told him to keep the press, the naysayers, other people — that’s just external factors — they’re going to say what they’re going to say, but you continue to believe in yourself, you continue to do the right things. You’re going to go far.”
Tagovailoa’s words of encouragement were likely a much-needed gesture for the rookie Young. After jumping out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead, Carolina allowed Miami to score the next five touchdowns (including three Tagovailoa touchdown passes) to put the game away.
“I have a ton of respect for Tua — great player, great person,” Young said during his own postgame press conference. “… He definitely did give some words of wisdom and stuff that I’ll hold onto.”
The Panthers’ loss dropped them to a league-worst 0-6; Young has yet to taste NFL victory. He’s tossed six touchdowns, four interceptions and 967 yards while completing 63.2% of his passes in the five games he’s played.
Meanwhile, Tagovailoa’s Dolphins are 5-1 and tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for first place in the AFC. Tagovailoa’s offense is the best in the NFL by nearly seven points and more than 100 yards per game. But it hasn’t always been this way for Tagovailoa in Miami.
He didn’t win the quarterback competition to start his rookie season in 2020, and didn’t make his first appearance until Week 6. He finally won the starting job in Week 8, but on his first dropback, he was strip-sacked. He was benched twice later in the season amid shaky performances, and in a game the Dolphins needed to win to make the playoffs, he threw three interceptions and Miami lost.
Now that Tagovailoa is far beyond his rookie struggles, he has much wisdom to impart. But that’s just one of the many reasons his words on Sunday carried such importance for Young.
As a star at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California, Young originally committed to USC in 2018. Yet in the fall of 2019, Young switched his commitment to Alabama. Why? Because he saw how the Crimson Tide’s offense had shifted to maximize the talents of a quarterback like Tagovailoa. Young imagined himself in the very same role.
Carolina coach Frank Reich sees the similarities even now.
“Both have quick release, accurate, can throw at different arm angles, get the ball all over the field,” he said last week, according to ESPN. “Good decision-makers, not runners but enough mobility to move the pocket and make the play.”
Yet the two quarterbacks are not just similar in the intangibles of the position, in enduring rookie struggles, or even in enjoying immense success at Alabama. They are also both devout followers of Christ.
Ever since he burst onto the scene in the 2018 College Football Playoff, Tagovailoa has repeatedly expressed his faith in God. It was even evident following Miami’s only loss this season, a 48-20 defeat in Buffalo on Oct. 1. As he wore his characteristic eye black in the shape of a cross, Tagovailoa mentioned his mindset after the loss through the lens of faith.
“The best thing about being a believer in Jesus Christ, to me, is that the good Lord up above doesn’t care whether you win a game, whether you lose a game,” he said. “And for me, it’s been a little tough having to play on Sundays, having to understand that I’m not able to go to church. Really, a lot of it is having to watch church online after games and things like that. But allowing me this platform, to me is the best thing in the world to be able to profess my faith.”
He continued later, “Having to remember Scripture always keep me encouraged in continuing to press forward, especially in times like this.”
View this post on Instagram
God has also drawn Young to Himself, and Young has been vocal about his faith publicly at Alabama and now in Carolina.
The 2021 Heisman Trophy-winner thanked God after the Panthers made him the No. 1 overall pick this past April, and he joined the Sports Spectrum Podcast in August 2022.
“I’m based in faith,” Young said on the podcast. “I’m blessed to have the family that I do that introduced me [to faith] when I was young. Throughout my life, my relationship has grown with the Lord and my faith has improved. Through that, I work to be the best version of myself that I can be and to embody Christ in all that I do.”
“Throughout my life, my relationship has grown with the Lord and my faith has improved. Through that, I work to be the best version of myself that I can be and to embody Christ in all that I do.”
— Sports Spectrum (@Sports_Spectrum) April 30, 2023
“Regardless of how someone else views me, whatever award, accolade, whatever someone may say — negative or positive — I appreciate and am grateful for the positive, and even for the negative,” he also said on the podcast. “But at the end of the day, what motivates me and pushes me is to model myself after the Lord. I definitely have a lot of work to do.”
As pressure builds in his rookie season to get his first career win, Young seeks to remain steadied by the relationship he has with his unchanging Father in Heaven and learn from those who have gone before him, like Tagovailoa. Young’s Carolina teammates believe he is the right guy to turn their season around.
“You don’t really see a person’s true colors until they’re going through some adversity,” said receiver Adam Thielen, according to ESPN. “So for him to handle the adversity our team is going through the way he has, man, those are the guys you want to fight for, those are the guys you want to play with and those are the guys that are going to have success in the future.”
The Panthers have a bye week this week. Their next game will be Oct. 29 against fellow rookie C.J. Stroud and the Houston Texans (3-3). The game is set for 1 p.m. ET.
– Bryce Young goes No. 1 overall to Panthers, wants to ‘represent God through football’
– AFC Player of the Week Tua Tagovailoa continues to give ‘all the glory’ to Christ
– MAGAZINE: Alabama Quarterback Bryce Young Puts Faith Before Fame
– SS PODCAST: Heisman winner Bryce Young on relationship with his dad, trusting God
– Centered in Christ, Dolphins rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa gets win in first NFL start