He will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks in Alabama Crimson Tide football history, yet he came and went in a flash.
A long weekend has reminded us how fleeting joy can be — after all, “2nd and 26” was just 20 months ago. Yet, it seems that Tua Tagovailoa would be around longer. Can you believe that he was the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback for less than two seasons? Barring a return to the Capstone for his senior season (Tua is still expected to turn pro next spring despite the hip injury suffered days ago), Tua will never play another down of football for the Tide.
How many times have we heard it? You don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone.
Over the last few days, college football fans across America have been appreciating Tua, not only for his football talents, but for his decency, faith and kindness. Oh, Tua has had plenty of reasons to be cocky: He owns the school record for career touchdown passes (85) and the school record for most touchdowns accounted for (94). He has thrown 31 touchdown passes this season and he’s ranked third on the school’s all-time total passing yardage list. Yet Tua Tagovailoa, a mere 21-years-old, remains humble, as he now recovers from his second surgery of the season.
We are more alike than we are different, and I have a feeling that, like me, you don’t want it to end. Regardless of which team you root for, college football was better with Tua taking snaps each and every football season. His pinpoint passing, his team leadership and his positive attitude made us all feel better, and after “2nd and 26,” you knew that when Tua was about to take the snap, you couldn’t take your eyes off the game.
In the days following Tua’s most recent injury, I have been reminded that this young man will go down in Crimson Tide history as one of the most loved Bama men ever: Bart Starr, Joe Namath, Jay Barker, Gene Stallings, Shaun Alexander, Jalen Hurts, Ken Stabler, Coach Bryant, Nick Saban, Mark Ingram, Amari Cooper, Lee Roy Jordan, Harry Gilmer, Ozzie Newsome, John Hannah, Derrick Henry, Demeco Ryans, Bobby Humphrey, Derrick Thomas, Julio Jones — the list goes on. And I’m here to tell you that you can now add Tua Tagovailoa to the list, as he’s a leading candidate to be ranked in the top-five of favorite Bama players ever.
As a new week is now upon us, it’s time to encourage healing rather than blame coaches — and we can all learn from a Bama football legend who has put it all in context.
Former Crimson Tide running back Shaun Alexander, who has faced pain in his own life (he and his wife Valerie lost their 70-day-old daughter Torah in May of 2017), is sending positive thoughts Tua’s way. While Shaun’s faith has helped him deal with his own setback, the 2005 NFL MVP has sent his own message to Tua via Twitter, and it’s a heartfelt message that speaks for all of us.
Shaun said, “My confidence in life is not about my gifts, abilities, awards or accomplishments. My confidence comes from my faith in Jesus. His plan is perfect. Every part of the plan is PERFECT. Love you, Tuaman. Walk through this like you was built to. Finish the Game. A legend is being made.”
It doesn’t get any better than that, my friend! From one legend to another, Shaun Alexander has reminded us all that life is about more than football, motivating Tua while speaking from the heart.
When great things come into our lives, we want more — and I have to be honest, I want more of Tua Tagovailoa. Could Tua decide to return for his senior season? Yes, he could, but I have a feeling that we will see Tua in the NFL next fall. Until then, let’s heed Shaun Alexander’s advice. One of the greatest players in Crimson Tide football history is likely finished playing college football. Let’s remember the southpaw gunslinger as a better person than he is a football player. For that, we are all grateful.
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Rick Karle is a 24-time Emmy winning broadcaster and a special sports contributor to Yellowhammer News. He is also the host of the Huts and Nuts podcast.