Agent Leigh Steinberg anticipates breakout sophomore NFL campaign for Tua Tagovailoa


Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) works out at the team’s NFL football training facility, Wednesday, May 26, 2021, in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Super agent Leigh Steinberg believes Tua Tagovailoa has put in the time and work in order to have a successful sophomore NFL season in 2021.

Steinberg, who has represented the world’s best athletes for over four decades, has Tagovailoa and perhaps the sport’s brightest young star in Patrick Mahomes among his clientele.

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Tagovailoa, who was trust into the starting quarterback role for the Miami Dolphins midway through his rookie season in 2020, completed approximately 64 percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns and five interceptions, going 6-3 as a starter.

The Dolphins finished 10-6 in the regular season but finished a win short of the playoffs as Tagovailoa struggled in the team’s regular season finale to the Buffalo Bills, leading some to question the Saint Louis alum and Ewa Beach native’s future with the franchise. Steinberg, however, believes Tagovailoa will be just fine, noting that unlike Mahomes, he actually saw meaningful playing time as a rookie.

“People forget the fact that the normal quarterback progression is to come in, have the first year as a learning year or sit behind a talented quarterback,” Steinberg told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “When (Patrick) Mahomes sat behind Alex Smith. Drew Brees sat. Aaron Rodgers sat, Patrick Mahomes. All these players benefitted from that. Well, Tua actually got pushed out on the field the first year. The first year is one where the game has to slow down and just the reads on the field, being able to read these complex defenses. You need time for it to slow down, so he had a normal first year of starting, which is a lot of pluses, a few minuses but the point is, with a year under his belt, he will be much better and you will see the Tua that’s very, very bright, a very intelligent play caller with a killer arm and the ability in times of crisis to elevate his level of play and take a team to and through victory.

“The most important position in football today is a franchise quarterback and Tua’s got everything he needs. What he was missing was experience, and now he’s got a little bit of that so you’ll watch his career year by year and he’ll keep ascending and getting better just because he had the ability to see the play on the field and as you know, he’s a fiery leader and when we agreed to represent him, we did a tour with his family of the house where they grew up, where his grandfather lived, we went to the grandfather’s grave, we retraced his roots and really got an understanding of the incredible heritage he comes from.”

Steinberg, who also represents former Hawaii football head coach June Jones, has an affinity for the islands and was recently on Maui for Mahomes’ 15 and the Mahomies Aloha Golf Classic on the Big Island. Before taking on any client, Steinberg says he’ll make a concerted effort to get to know their backgrounds and upbringings in hopes of said client making an impact in their community.

“The basic premise of our practice is the athlete is role model, and the most important skill you need I think in life, but certainly in the agency is the ability to listen, to draw another person out, to really understand their deepest anxieties and fears and their greatest hopes and dreams,” Steinberg says. “Pretty clearly, when you come to Hawaii, the culture is family oriented, it’s warm, it’s inviting, it’s supportive and so I feel right at home here. We ask each of our athletes to retrace their roots and go back to their high school, collegiate and professional community and set up a role modeling project. It could be what Tua did at his high school, which was a scholarship fund, or what Troy Aikman and Steve Young did, which was a college scholarship fund. And at the pro level, set up a charitable foundation, which tackles some problems. The running back Warrick Dunn put the 175th single mother and her family into the first home they’ll ever own by having homes for the holidays as a foundation or Patrick Mahomes has 15 and the Mahomies. Tua will soon have a charitable foundation.

“It leads to interesting things because June Jones’ charitable foundation was done by a fellow named Kevin Kaplan. Kevin Kaplan and June and Jesse (Sapolu) put together the Polynesian Pro Football Hall of Fame and I was able to go to the banquet last year and it was amazing and wonderful, a celebration of Polynesian culture and just spectacular so tonight I think we’re going to a luau or a musical presentation and that’s exciting but if that stems from friendship and a interest, so I sit with each client and say, ‘What would you want your legacy to be? How would you like to be able to tackle some problems in the world?’”

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