On Monday, it became official: Tua Tagovailoa is NFL bound.
The Saint Louis alum and Alabama junior quarterback ended months of speculation by announcing his intentions in a press conference in Tuscaloosa.
“With lots of prayers, thoughts and guidance, I have decided that I will be declaring and entering the 2020 NFL Draft,” Tagovailoa said on the podium at the Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility on Alabama’s campus.
Tagovailoa wasn’t the first person to speak at his own press conference. Alabama coach Nick Saban took the podium to start and expounded on the imprint the Ewa Beach native has made on one of college football’s most iconic programs.
“Tua has probably had as much of an impact on our program here as any player that we’ve ever had, and I’m not just talking about as a football player,” Saban said. “He’s got great character, he’s a great leader, he’s done a wonderful job in the classroom.
“There’s a spirit about him that has impacted myself and everybody around him in a very, very positive way. He’s had great accomplishments on the field, but you probably don’t really fully understand the significance of the contributions he’s made off the field with his teammates and the people who are around him every day. An unbelievable positive spirit.”
A season-ending hip injury on Nov. 16 against Mississippi State was the final snap Tagovailoa took during the 2019 season. It also set the stage for the months and decisions that followed it.
In an interview with ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit on Dec. 3, Tagovailoa acknowledged how the injury has changed his decision-making process towards the draft. Tagovailoa will not be fully healed in time for the NFL Scouting Combine, which takes place from Feb. 23 to March 2 in Indianapolis.
The thought of coming back to Alabama to have a fully healthy 2020 season and hitting the ground running on the draft process crossed his mind, but so did the possibility of getting injured again. Either avenue presented a risk. On Monday, Tagovailoa chose the path that will get him to the pros faster.
Tagovailoa spent the past weekend in New York to get a clearer sense of where he was at in his recovery. The conclusion drawn was that he’s on schedule with his recovery — nothing more, nothing less. He says he plans to stay in Tuscaloosa for the time being as he continues to rehab.
“I don’t think any of the doctors can tell the foreseeable future. None of the guys rehabbing me can tell that. From what they’ve seen in New York, everything looks good,” Tagovailoa said. “You can’t really tell until the three-month mark or the four-month mark. That’s the gauge on all of that.”
In the end, the decision was always going to be Tua’s to make. But to him, the choice was bigger than himself.
“These kind of things don’t really take the doctors, they don’t really take myself. It pretty much boils down to one thing, and I think that’s faith,” Tagovailoa said. “It boils down to that. Coming from a family that has a lot of it, I’m definitely willing to take that challenge.”
Tagovailoa was and still is highly regarded as a top NFL prospect. Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. has Tagovailoa as his No. 3 overall prospect. New York Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (who also attended Alabama), the No. 3 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, earned a signing bonus of $21,677,724.
Even if Tagovailoa doesn’t get picked in the top three, an eight-figure signing bonus is likely if he is picked in the top 10. Especially with how front-loaded NFL rookie contracts are, Tagovailoa will get a life-changing amount of money right off the bat. Shortly after announcing, Tagovailoa signed with Leigh Steinberg, one of the NFL’s most prominent agents.
However, Tagovailoa didn’t mention the word ‘money’ once during his press conference, nor did he discuss anything monetary during the approximately 17 minutes he was on the podium. It’s clear being the Crimson Tide’s quarterback was priceless to him.
“My love for the University of Alabama, our coaches, our fans and my teammates has made this especially hard for me,” Tagovailoa said before announcing his decision to declare early.
He’ll find out which NFL franchise he’s headed for in due time. With that, his college career, which he described as “the epitome of a roller coaster,” is over.
When Tagovailoa was done taking questions, he exited with one last “God bless and Roll Tide.”