Maryland football sent the sports world into a frenzy when Alabama transfer quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa announced he would be transferring to play under head coach Mike Locksley last Friday.
While he’s well known for being the younger brother of Tua, there’s a lot more to the Terps’ new quarterback. Here are five things you should know about Tagovailoa.
1. He started his football career as a center
When he first began playing football in elementary school, Tagovailoa played as his brother’s center. And when Tua moved on to high school, he transitioned into the starting quarterback for his middle school team at the suggestion of his uncle.
“It was crazy. I had to lose a lot of of weight — different eating, different training, different mindset,” Tagovailoa said in a video produced by AL.com. “But being around Tua and growing up with the older boys, it really matured me quick. But it was all worth it.’
2. The Tagovailoa family is Samoan, and they’re quite tight-knit
Tagovailoa was raised with Tua and his two sisters in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, a small city on the Island of O’ahu, alongside a very large extended family.
Though Hawaii is their home, the entire family is Samoan. Samoan culture, which emphasizes the importance of family and faith, is extremely important to the Tagovailoa family.
When Tua moved to Alabama in 2017, Tagovailoa, his siblings and his parents followed suit. When Tagovailoa was first reported to enter the transfer portal, many experts predicted he would end up at a South Florida school so that the family could stay close together with Tua drafted to the Miami Dolphins. His decision to go to Maryland, which Tagovailoa said he prayed a lot on, shows the family has a great deal of trust in Locksley.
3. His high school career was very impressive
Though Tua was ranked higher, the younger Tagovailoa had a much better high school career statistically. He was a four-year starter, playing two years in Hawaii before moving to Alabama with his family and earning the starting job at Thompson High School.
The program, which is in a conference that is regarded as one of the best in the country, hadn’t won more than five games or finished better than fifth in its region in 11 years by the time Tagovailoa arrived in 2017.
Yet in Tagovailoa’s first season with the Warriors, he led them to win the Class 7A Region 3 Championship and the state semifinals while earning First Team All-State honors. In his senior season, in which he once again earned First Team All-State honors, the team finished second in its region but made it all the way to the state championship game, where it lost to the most dominant team in Alabama.
During his time at Thompson, he became the only player in Alabama high school history to throw for at least four 400-yard games. Through four years of high school, Tagovailoa passed for 14,207 yards and 135 touchdowns. He also added 11 rushing touchdowns. Tua, playing at a much less competitive league in Hawaii, finished his high school career passing for 8,158 yards and 84 touchdowns, along with 1,727 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns.
4. He was a finalist for the Elite 11
In 2018, Tagovailoa was selected as one of 12 finalists for the premier quarterback competition in the country, the Elite 11.
While obviously not everyone in the program goes on to have the same success, Elite 11 alumni include the likes of Mark Sanchez, Matt Stafford, Tyrod Taylor, Andrew Luck, Jared Goff, Deshaun Watson, Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins. Tua also competed in the program in 2016, earning MVP honors.
Notable members of the 2018 finalists alongside Tagovailoa include MVP Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma), Bo Nix (Auburn), Jayden Daniels (Arizona State) and Ryan Hilinski (South Carolina).
Tagovailoa’s best moment of the competition came when he beat everyone out in “Long Ball Challenge,” slinging the ball 66 yards.
The program aired on the NFL Network. You can watch episodes here.
5. He has a real chance to earn QB1 next season, if he is cleared to play
Tagovailoa saw the field in five games as a freshman for Alabama, so he wasn’t able to retain his redshirt. It is yet to be seen whether he’ll be able to get a waiver from the NCAA to play in the fall, though the organization has shown leniency towards the quarterback position in the past.
If he is deemed eligible, Tagovailoa will certainly be competing for the starting spot. He has a very fast release and can throw accurately on the run — two qualities that head coach Mike Locksley has previously said he wants his QB1 to possess.
While he was hindered by an injury-ridden offensive line, Josh Jackson had an underwhelming first season with the Terps. He completed a mere 47 (98-of-207) percent of his passes and only passed for 12 touchdowns on the year — seven of which came in the first two games — while giving up six interceptions. Jackson was inconsistent, struggled greatly with his decision making and didn’t seem to play much of a leadership role for the team either as it lost the final seven games of 2019.
As the starting quarterback from the season prior, Jackson certainly still has a shot of leading the offense in 2020, but redshirt freshman Lance Legendre and Tagovailoa make a much stronger case.