Galu and Diane Tagovailoa were on a Zoom call when their son, Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, made his NFL debut on Sunday.
Because of the nature of the hip fracture Tua Tagovailoa suffered last November, it was unclear when or if he’d appear in a game this season. Even though he’s recovered since then, the Dolphins continued to take the cautious approach by sitting him the first five games of the 2020 season.
When the Ewa Beach native and Saint Louis alum entered for mop-up duty in the closing minutes of a 24-0 win over the New York Jets, his parents were caught by surprise. The meeting, of course, would have to wait.
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“It was pretty emotional. I think during that time, we were having a meeting, on a Zoom meeting and stuff,” Galu Tagovailoa told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “Diane got a text from Tua’s agent, Chris Cabott, that Tua was in the game. She started panicking, she started shaking, looking at her phone, and then she started tearing up and she was like, ‘My son is in and I’m not even there.’
“It was pretty emotional,” Diane Tagovailoa added. “I can’t remember the last game we’ve ever missed, and so for us to miss that game where he finally gets a chance to go in, just given everything he’s been through in the last 11 months and even prior to that, injuries before that and whatnot, the whole recovery process was pretty emotional. The meeting stopped. The meeting at that time and it was just surreal, unbelievable for us to see him.”
Tua Tagovailoa completed both of his pass attempts for nine total yards. He was also able to get both passes off without getting hit. As the Dolphins head into their bye week, it is unclear what their quarterback plans are moving forward. Regardless, Tagovailoa showed he’s ready and capable when called upon.
After the game, Tagovailoa sat on the 15-yard line at Hard Rock Stadium and called his parents in a viral moment captured by ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe. Although it wasn’t Tagovailoa’s first time playing at the home of the Miami Dolphins (he had previously done so in leading Alabama to victory in the 2018 Orange Bowl over Oklahoma), it was clearly an emotional moment — Tagovailoa successfully returned from a devastating injury and lived out his pro football dreams for the first time in one fell swoop.
“We’ll remember that moment forever. It’s where he took his first snap at the home field,” Diane said. “Of course we weren’t there physically, but we were just so proud of him. That’s basically what we shared. We shared that we were just so proud of him and it was in a sense, for me, like a sigh of relief because it was like he made it. Yes, he got drafted and whatnot and he was part of the team but he was actually able to take a snap, roll out, make a pass and those are all victories.
“Those are all victories and they are part of his story, it’s part of his journey, and it’s just a very special moment for him to think about us and want to share that moment with us because we couldn’t be there.”
Tagovailoa received clearance from his hip injury before April’s NFL Draft and was a full participant during preseason training camp in Miami. Head coach Brian Flores has remained protective of Tagovailoa and has spoken of him as if he were his own son. Galu, in turn, has called Flores a father figure for Tua on the football field.
“It’s very comforting. It’s things as parents you want to hear and it’s things that you want to know. I have direct communication with coach Flores, with Brian, calling him and we talk and texting back and forth,” Galu said. “He’s not just a coach for Tua out there. He’s also a father for him on the field and the things that he’s going through with Tua. It’s always good to hear things like that and to see it through our son and then to hear it through coach, I mean it’s so comforting. We really, really appreciate that.”
Fans rejoiced when Tua Tagovailoa took the field on Sunday, with some calling the move overdue. With Tua’s debut behind him and the rest of his NFL career ahead of him, Diane and Galu remain eternally grateful for the support.
“It’s very special. It means a lot. Hawaii is still home and like he mentioned in his documentary, when all is said and done, that’s where he wants to end everything at, is back home in Hawaii,” Diane said. “The support and love from everyone back home means a lot. Not only to him, but to us here. It’s tremendous and I think everything falls in place. After the injury, he had tweeted God’s plans and that had always been the constant reminder. God’s plans for him, God’s timing and all of that so everything just always goes back to that, to our faith.”
Added Galu: “I just want to give a shoutout to all that people that has been a part of Tua’s life, especially with training and stuff. First, we want to give a shoutout to pastor mom and dad (Sai and Tuli) Amosa for what they’ve done. For the Saint Louis community and the Saint Louis School, with Dr. (Glenn) Medeiros and their staff, the entire Ewa Beach people, then also his trainers like people that’s been involved in his life, like Cal Lee, Ron Lee, Vinny Passas, what a great guy. Really want to shoutout to Vinny Passas and everything that he’s done, his trainers, Kimo Luna, that’s been there for him, John Ligsay, that’s been a part of his life with training and being up here with us, just so many things. There’s people that I might forget, but for those of you that have been a part of his life, thank you so much. We appreciate everything and we wish you the best but at the same time, we’ll stay in touch.”