Tagovailoa thrills fans back home

Tua Tagovailoa holds up the championship trophy after leading Alabama to a 26-23 overtime win over Georgia on Monday. AP photo

Saint Louis grad lauded for humility, class after leading Alabama to title

By CALEB JONES

The Associated Press

HONOLULU — Hawaii has churned out some pretty incredible football players.

After the College Football Playoff national championship game, fans are adding another name to the list: Tua Tagovailoa.

The Saint Louis School graduate and freshman Alabama quarterback came off the bench in the second half of Monday’s game to lead the Crimson Tide to a 26-23 overtime win over Georgia.

In turn, Hawaii fans roared to life, taking to social media as local news outlets sent mobile alerts about one of the biggest touchdown passes in the history of Alabama — and Hawaii — football.

“It was surreal, it was so unexpected because we pretty much thought Alabama lost,” said Honolulu resident Brandon Lee, who was driving home when friends started texting him to let him know that Tagovailoa was in the game.

Lee raced to a friend’s house to watch and saw the entire second half, including Tagovailoa’s game-winning 41-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith.

“When it happened, we were just kind of in disbelief, the whole place, you know everybody was screaming and celebrating. It was crazy.”

“I think that’s one of the unique qualities about Hawaii, is that whenever you see a local person shine, on a national stage especially, we all have this certain pride that we feel and especially when they do it with humility and class like he did last night,” Lee said.

Tagovailoa entered the game at halftime, replacing a struggling Jalen Hurts, and threw three touchdown passes to give the Crimson Tide its fifth national championship since 2009 under coach Nick Saban.

Before the game-winner, Tagovailoa took a terrible sack, losing 16 yards. On the next play, he found Smith, another freshman, and hit him in stride.

“I don’t know how Coach Saban found me all the way in Hawaii from Alabama,” Tagovailoa said. “Thank God he found me and we’re here right now.”

Heisman Trophy winner and current Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, another former Crusader, took note of the young QB on Tuesday.

“He’s done it all himself, you know I think where he gets his humility is from his family, how he carries himself is really from where we grew up. The kid’s a stud,” Mariota said. “When you carry yourself that way it’s important that you remember that you represent much more than yourself, and I think he understands it.”

Mariota said that Saint Louis quarterbacks coach Vinny Passas, who mentored Mariota and Tagovailoa, “I’m sure he’s smiling at us.”

“It’s nice to see this next generation of kids kind of coming up and representing Hawaii well,” Mariota said.