Dolphins coach shoots down idea of Tua Tagovailoa sitting out season

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa may have an opportunity to repeat some history when he eventually makes his NFL debut.

After an expedited training camp, the Saint Louis alum will begin his NFL career as a backup to 16-year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick when the Dolphins kick off their 2020 season on the road against the New England Patriots on Sunday.

And just like he took the college football world by storm with his game-winning touchdown pass for Alabama in the 2017 national title game, Tagovailoa could possibly have an opportunity to come off the bench and lead the Dolphins to a victory at some point as a rookie — if he doesn’t win the job outright as the season progresses.

Dolphins coach Brian Flores will be faced with the tough decision, just like Alabama coach Nick Saban was, when it comes time to make a change to Tagovailoa at quarterback.

But Flores does not deal in hypothetical scenarios. He laughs them off. And he hopes by having Tagovailoa on the active roster for the opener, that his rookie quarterback will be prepared in the event he could be called upon to shake up the Dolphins offense.

“Everyone has to be ready to go. When your number is called you have to go in and try to be productive, and if you’re number is not called, you have to stay ready. That’s the approach I’d like all our players to take.”

One thing we do know is Tagovailoa will be ready, at least mentally.

Before Tagovailoa’s NFL career begins Sunday, football fans will be able to experience Tagovailoa’s rise to becoming the Dolphins’ next franchise quarterback when his documentary, appropriately named “Tua,” premieres on Saturday afternoon.

The documentary, which was postponed from its initial Sept. 6 premiere date due to a weather delay in a NHRA race broadcast, will air following the Louisiana Tech-Baylor college football game on Fox.

“Tua” takes a deep dive into Tagovailoa’s strong ties with his family, faith and Samoan culture, his rise as a college quarterback at Alabama, his extensive recovery process from the hip injury he sustained last November, up to the moment the Dolphins drafted him with the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft in April.

Outside of his hip injury, the most significant moment in Tagovailoa’s career came during the 2017 national title game, where he replaced Alabama starter Jalen Hurts and led the Crimson Tide to a victory in overtime.

The night before the game, Tagovailoa visited his parents, Galu and Diane, in their hotel room, almost as if he could feel the moment would come one day later.

“Mom, Dad, are you guys ready? Are you guys ready? He said ‘your lives are going to change tomorrow. All of our lives are going to change tomorrow,’ ” Diane Tagovailoa recalls.

“I told them that if I get my opportunity in this game that I promise you guys that our lives are going to change,” Tagovailoa said.

Tagovailoa went on to have one the best seasons for a quarterback in college football history during his sophomore season in 2018, and was on his way to potentially becoming the No. 1 draft pick before he suffered his injury after a sack shortly before halftime against Mississippi State on Nov. 16, 2019.

“I asked Coach Saban because you want to go out there and you want to play,” Tagovailoa says of wanting to go back in for the final sequence up 35-7 in the second quarter during the game.

“We were going to let him finish the first half. We weren’t going to play him in the second half. And then it was just devastating,” Saban said.

Tagovailoa’s body continues to progress positively nearly 10 months after sustaining the hip dislocation and posterior wall fracture.

He has been a full participant in training camp and Dolphins practices this week in preparation for the season opener.

And Flores has no qualms about giving him some action as a rookie, especially in a pandemic-affected season where player availability may be at a premium.

“I’m not really thinking about guys not playing. I’m trying to get guys ready to play,” Flores said when asked if he’s thought about sitting Tagovailoa for the year.

Tagovailoa may have to wait his turn before he makes his NFL debut.

But when it does come, potentially more life changing moments could come Tagovailoa and the Dolphins, too.

“That’s the thing about Tua,” said former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, who helped him prepare for the draft.

“When you’re around him, you know good things are coming.”

——

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com