When news pertaining Marcus Mariota’s status for the 2020 NFL season broke on Tuesday, Vince Passas was in the middle of doing what he’s best known for in football circles.

The quarterback guru was holding a training session for the next generation of signal-callers in Las Vegas. Earlier that morning, another pupil of his was named an NFL starter for the first time.

Tua Tagovailoa is the new starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, while Mariota was moved to the active roster for the first time during the 2020 NFL season. Passas was a mentor to Mariota and Tagovailoa during their years at Saint Louis as both the school’s quarterbacks coach and organizer of his free ‘Get Better’ camps on Sundays. As Mariota and Tagovailoa both went on to become Heisman Trophy finalists at their respective colleges, Passas was invited to each of their Heisman ceremonies. With how connected the two seem to be, Tuesday’s successive news came as a surprise to Passas.

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“I was at a breakfast meeting this morning. When I looked up at the screen, I saw the big caption there that the Dolphins named Tua the starting quarterback for the next game and I was shocked. I was really happy for him,” Passas told KHON2. “I didn’t realize that Miami would bring him around that fast. He must’ve been having good weeks of practice. I thought for sure that they would kind of treat him like how Green Bay did with Aaron Rodgers, how Kansas City did with Patrick Mahomes, but I guess they know better and they know what their investment’s like, they know his progress better than anyone else does.

“I’m happy for him. Happy for him and his family and I think that’s pretty awesome.”

Passas watched on Sunday as Tagovailoa made his NFL debut during garbage time of a 24-0 win over the New York Jets. Although it didn’t have the same shock value as Tagovailoa unexpectedly entering the 2018 College Football Playoff national championship game against Georgia, Sunday still marked Tagovailoa’s first live taste of pro football and Passas was thrilled nonetheless.

“They were talking about he might be going in so I saw him with his helmet on, that was a good sign and when he went in, I saw (Ryan Fitzpatrick) get the crowd going and the crowd went crazy a little bit. God, I was happy for him,” Passas said. “Gosh, for Fitzpatrick to even cheer the crowd on for Tua, because I guess everyone wants to see Tua play, I thought that was a pretty awesome experience there and moment.”

Moving forward, Passas is eager to see Tagovailoa and Mariota take the field, although he understands the injury history for both. Tagovailoa, who will see a bigger role than Mariota for the time being, is less than a year removed from a devastating hip fracture that ended his college career.

“You always have that,” Passas said of his cautious optimism for Tagovailoa. “I don’t know how fast his body heals. He’s a young guy and usually young guys, their body heals a whole lot faster. There’s something spiritual about him that makes him heal a lot faster than anyone else does. I’m happy for him. … Again, there are some things that can happen but then again, look what happened to Alex Smith. He got in after what happened to him a couple years ago. For him to go back and take a hit, he still kind of worked his way through it so gosh, all you can do is hope for the best for him and keep praying for him that he continues to heal and get better and I hope that he comes out and throws it well.

“It’s a moment he’s been waiting for and I’m sure they wouldn’t put him in if they didn’t feel he was ready, but he’s ready for that type of challenge.”

Mariota, on the other hand, is dealing with a series of publicly undisclosed issues.

“I think they wouldn’t use him if they didn’t need him. I thought the Raiders was a good fit for him. (Raiders head coach Jon) Gruden didn’t need him to play right away, having a solid backup and just being able to heal up and be ready to go. I think just taking his time to heal up was the best thing for him,” Passas said. “The last I saw of him, he was moving around well, throwing the ball well and moving around good. Something must’ve happened at the scrimmage they had at Allegiant Stadium, I think that stuff is under wraps. Not really knowing what’s happening there. … I’m just keeping him in my prayers and hoping he recovers and just stays healthy.”

Given that Passas and Mariota both reside in Las Vegas for the time being, the two were able to meet and hold multiple workouts before the season started.

“Before he got into camp, threw with him a few times and one of the local players came up here to work out with him and it was a real treat for him and I thought that was pretty awesome to get back to his roots, knowing where he came from,” Passas said. “I thought that was a really special moment for all of us out here. But he’s doing good. At the time, he’s looking good and he looked better in the first workout that we had together and he was just progressively looking better.”

There’s a chance Mariota and Tagovailoa play against each other when the Raiders and Dolphins meet in Week 16. At the minimum, the two are at least guaranteed a postgame photo that’s sure to make Passas beam with pride. Not that he isn’t already.

“That’s awesome,” Passas said. “For them to be in the NFL, it’s always an awesome feeling to have brothers from Kalaepohaku and Saint Louis and be in the NFL and get to be playing against each other. That’s an awesome feeling to represent our school and state in an amazing way.”