By Bryce Shadday | @Bryce_Shadday
Sports Capital Journalism Program
Tua Tagovailoa took his place at a podium at the start of the National Football League Scouting Combine. As another generation of football players gathered in Indianapolis to discuss their futures, the scrutiny of Tagovailoa had to do with a painful past.
He had not played football since November 19. The Alabama Crimson Tide led Mississippi State by a score of 35-7 with 3:01 left in the first half. Tagovailoa scrambled, launched the ball downfield, and was knocked to the ground. That knockdown caused Tagovailoa to dislocate his right hip and fracture his posterior wall. Months of rehab were in front of the star quarterback, whose stunning touchdown pass in overtime led Alabama to a College Football Playoff championship victory over Georgia at the end of the 2017 season.
His college career had ended with 7,442 passing yards, a completion percentage of 69.3, 87 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions. The low point, Tagovailoa said in response to a question, was when he injured his hip. “I didn’t feel bad for myself when I was on the helicopter going to Birmingham,” he said. The support of his family and fans around the world helped him.
Tagovailoa is not participating in drills at the Combine because he is waiting for clearance from his personal doctors. He is happy to tell us that on March 9 he should receive clearance.
Tagovailoa plans to hold his own personal pro day on April 9, two weeks before the draft. He has been throwing “a good amount” already and hopes to get back into full training mode once the doctors give him the go-ahead on March 9. He said that his doctors are fully confident that his body will be able to perform the way it was before the hip injury and have no restrictions.
But for now, the financial stakes of a high draft choice and Tagovailoa’s health have created a time-consuming exercise. On Monday morning, he reported for a medical exam at a local hospital. “I got to the hospital about 10 in the morning and I was the last person to leave,” said Tagovailoa. He said he got back at 7:49 p.m., just in time to be interviewed by team officials.
Tagovailoa made the decision to leave Alabama and enter the NFL Draft after three years. “It was a hard decision to leave Alabama,” he said. He could have been the first pick in the last two drafts, but because of the NCAA rule that requires football players to stay in school for three years, Tagovailoa had to wait to fulfill his dream of becoming an NFL quarterback.
During his three years at Alabama, he sustained injuries to both ankles and his throwing hand before the hip injury. The injuries he suffered within two years reportedly caused concern among NFL teams. Once thought to be the top pick in the draft, recent speculation has placed Tagovailoa somewhere in the top 10 due to the injuries and the emergence of Louisiana State’s Joe Burrow.
And yet Tagovailoa supports the system that may have delayed his departure. “I think the three-year rule is good,” he said. Despite the complications, Tagovailoa is content where he is and wherever he may be drafted.
“Whatever team decides to draft me, I’d be grateful,” he said.