In the end, Tua Tagovailoa joins the team that coveted him the most

Sports

FILE – In this Feb. 27, 2020, file photo, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa watches a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

After all the speculation, the wait it finally over.

Tua Tagovailoa is a Miami Dolphin, and the quarterback is taking his talents from Ewa Beach to South Beach after the organization selected him fifth overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, where he’s expected to sign a four-year rookie deal in excess of $30 million.

“It was a dream come true, man, to be able to have this opportunity,” Tagovailoa said in a conference call with media shortly after getting picked. “I would honestly like to just thank Owner Stephen Ross. I’d like to thank GM Chris Grier. I’d also like to thank Coach (Brian) Flores for giving me this opportunity. This is special for not just me, but for my family as well.”

Tagovailoa entered the 2019 college football season as the consensus top quarterback prospect among scouts and draft analysts alike. But after a hip fracture in November that ended his season, combined with Joe Burrow’s Heisman Trophy winning season for LSU, doubts arose about the lefty from Saint Louis.

During the pre-draft process, Tagovailoa declined to name the teams he had been in contact with, citing that he didn’t want to show his cards. It turns out he’s joining the team his name was linked with the most for over a year, so much so that Dolphins fans started a #TankForTua campaign following the 2018 season.

Even if pre-draft reports had strongly linked Oregon’s Justin Herbert closer to the Dolphins, the organization made their pick with both on the board. Tagovailoa was the guy all along. He says he built a relationship with Ross, Grier and Flores at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, and that they have been in consistent communication via Zoom calls since.

Given the unique challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic presents, Tagovailoa is unsure when he’ll be able to move to South Florida. Still, he’d like to create a rapport with his new teammates as soon as he can.

“With the given circumstances, I’m just going to be talking to the coaches and kind of seeing how we’re going to go about doing things as an organization,” he said. “From there really, we’ve just got to hope and pray that everything works out and that we can get back to spending time as a team.

“I think for me, the most important thing is probably getting everyone’s phone number on the team and just creating relationships. Maybe starting out with the quarterbacks and then working my way down to the linemen or starting with the linemen, but just creating relationships a little at a time. Especially during times like this, it’s hard, so I think that’d be best.”

Tagovailoa also said he’s confident he’ll be able to play in 2020, but enters a quarterback room with the likes of seasoned 15-year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, as well as Josh Rosen, the 10th overall pick in the 2018 draft out of UCLA. It’s currently unknown whether he’ll start right away or be groomed for a period of time. Physically, he believes he’s ready to go.

“I think what makes me confident in the aspect of me being able to play would be what the doctors have told me,” he said. “As far as rehab, as far as the medical rechecks, I’ve checked off all the boxes, so that’s what I’ve been really standing on and that’s kind of what I’ve been going with.”

Regardless of when Tagovailoa takes the field, he’ll most likely be doing so in a different jersey number than the ‘13’ fans at Saint Louis and Alabama have grown accustomed to. That’s because the organization retired the number after Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino was done wearing it for the team.

“For me, I’m not too worried about what number I have. I understand number 13 is retired and it should be,” Tagovailoa said. “Dan Marino, he – he’s the GOAT. He’s like the mayor out there, and I have much respect for him. Whatever number I’m given by that organization if it’s 7, 8, 9 – I’ll wear it. It doesn’t matter.”

A year ago today, Dolphins fans would likely be elated to find out that Tagovailoa was their newest quarterback. Many still were on Thursday, but the route to get there was far different than what anyone could have imagined.

“I would tell them this has probably been the hardest process for me to go through,” Tagovailoa said. “I’ve gone through a lot with making this decision. I went to Nashville, I went through that tornado that came through. My car got destroyed. I’m going through rehab during that process. And then there’s a lot of uncertainty at the same time. There was just a lot of things piling up. So I’d just tell them that this was probably the most difficult time for me in my life.

“I would say I didn’t get nervous at all. For me and my family the biggest thing was whoever decided to take a chance on us, whoever decided to pick me up, that’s where I belonged. Like I said, I’m very grateful and honored that I had this opportunity to play for this organization. My biggest thing is I’m trying to prove that this is the right decision for the organization.”

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