24 hours away from kickoff and all signs point towards Hawaii’s dream quarterback matchup of Marcus Mariota and Tua Tagovailoa perhaps not being a starting QB showdown.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who is recovering from a groin injury was not listed on the injury report for Saturday’s game against the Dolphins after being a full participant in practice during the week. Head coach Jon Gruden did not name a starter, but did say that Mariota would be ready if needed.
With all that being said, according to six-time Pro Bowl center and Saint Louis graduate Olin Kreutz, regardless of how Saturday night plays out, the postgame embrace between Marcus and Tua should be celebrated as a milestone moment for the Aloha State.
“You just get filled with so much pride when you think about that. Marcus Mariota, Tua, I mean, number two pick of the draft, number five pick of the draft. Both of them from a small island,” Kreutz told KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello. “They represent all of us when they’re out there and for an old football player like me, you have so much pride watching it because they’re representing you. You know where they’ve come from. You know how hard they worked, and then you can imagine what it means to the kids out there. It basically means that if you grow up on that island, anything is possible.”
Kreutz, who like Mariota and Tagovailoa is a Saint Louis graduate, can relate to the inevitable embrace with a fellow alum as he and former Lions center Dominic Raiola met many times while playing in the same division. Those moments created great pride in the proud O’ahu private school and still feels it now from the outside looking in.
“First and foremost, we all know once you leave the island, we’re all just from Hawaii and we represent the island and we don’t think about it that way but of course when we get back and you’re around Punahou and Kamehameha guys you mention that,” Kreutz said with a laugh. “For Saint Louis it means a lot. It means that you’re doing things the right way there.”
Both Tagovailoa and Mariota learned under the tutelage of Saint Louis quarterbacks coach Vinny Passas, who was invited to attend Mariota’s Heisman Trophy winning ceremony in 2014 and Tagovailoa’s second place finish for the prestigious award in 2018. The fact that two of his quarterbacks will be on the same NFL field is quite remarkable for both those that were involved directly in their developments according to Kreutz, but also, for all in the state of Hawaii.
“Coaches like Vinny Passas obviously, you got to give him credit when those guys are on the field you got to talk about Vinny Passas. You got to talk about Cal Lee, Ron Lee, Darnell Arceneaux, all the coaches that went through there who went to Saint Louis to help pretty much mold these kids. Football means a lot to us up there at Saint Louis and it means a lot to everyone on the island really. Because I’m always away from the islands so much I have a hard time separating it until I get home and talk about the fact that we are from Saint Louis, we’ll run that in a little bit more but these two guys, make no mistake about it, they are representing Kalaepohaku but they’re representing the island.”
After retiring in 2011, Kreutz has spent the last five years as an analyst for the Chicago Bears on both radio and television while keeping up with the progress of the Hawaii born quarterbacks. Last Thursday, he was thrilled to see Mariota make his 2020 debut with Las Vegas when he came in off the bench for the injured Carr to post over 300-yards of total offense and two scores in a loss to the Chargers. Serving as an incredible comeback story after his five years with the Titans ended last year after suffering numerous injuries which led to surgeries and forced him into free agency.
“No doubt, the NFL is a hard place to make it and I give Marcus credit. He’s gone through a lot and he’s hanging in there and he showed you in that game that he is studying his film, that he’s getting ready everyday like he’s the starter. He came in ready to go. They didn’t miss a beat. He operated that offense. Of course when he’s running the ball, he’s trying to run guys over, he got me off the couch. I really enjoyed watching him play because I can only imagine how hard that was for him to go through that but it shows you his character. It shows you that look, I’ve been knocked down but I’m going to keep working hard and I’m going to try and get my job back and when I get my chance I’m going to show you that I can play.”
As for Tagovailoa, the rookie quarterback has made seven starts for the Dolphins, having led Miami to a 5-2 record in those games as the Dolphins currently hold possession of the seventh and final wild card spot in the AFC. Tagovailoa, has nine touchdown passes to just two interceptions to this point.
“That young man has been impressive. Every time he throws the ball, I remember the first time I saw him play it was Saint Louis against Punahou, I was home for something and he threw a 20-yard out and that left arm is a gift from god. When he throws that ball that man spins the football. They got themselves a steal there in Miami. He’s leading that team, he had a great game this past week. He’s playing well, his team is playing well, and just to play as a rookie in the NFL at the quarterback position which is the hardest position in sports to play, it’s impressive for him to be doing that.”
Kickoff between the Raiders and Dolphins is scheduled for Saturday at 3:15pm HST and will be televised on the NFL Network.