Tua Tagovailoa may not have started the National Championship Game for Alabama, but he sure did finish it.
The talented freshman came off the bench with the Crimson Tide trailing 13-0 at half and he led Alabama to a 26-23 overtime victory.
Tagovailoa was a popular man in the post-game interview scrum, and for good reason. Here’s a look at what he had to say:
— Joel Awabdeh (@awabdeh_joel) January 9, 2018
— Michael Snow (@MikeSnow4) January 9, 2018
Tagovailoa later gave a one-on-one interview to ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt on SportsCenter following the game.
Van Pelt: “Tua, do you have a sense of what it is that you and your guys have just accomplished?”
Tagovailoa: “I mean, it just felt like another game out there. I just thank God I was put in a place and the position that I’m in now. I just want to enjoy this win with my team and my family. That’s really it.”
Van Pelt: “I get it. And with respect– it’s not just another game. It’s the biggest stage your sport has got and at this moment we’re showing that you shared with your family. What is it like when you get to share that particular moment with the people you love the most?”
Tagovailoa: “I think that’s the most special thing. Especially for my dad. My dad is my heart. My family is my heart. And just being able to have them here, as well, to be able to witness it was an amazing opportunity for me.”
The moment Van Pelt was referring to was captured on the ESPN broadcast:
Tua and his family. What a moment. pic.twitter.com/erXoPaxiyx
— SEC Country Alabama (@SECCountryBama) January 9, 2018
Tagovailoa gave the following answers in the post-game press conference, courtesy of ASAP Sports:
Question: Tua, could you get any idea for the reaction in the islands? I know the time difference probably made it in primetime there. Who did you talk to? What did they say? How are things back home?
Tagovailoa: I haven’t really got to talk to anyone back home aside from my family. I hear they’re very proud of me. The time difference back home, I think it’s a five-hour time difference. I don’t hear too much from a lot of people back home, but at the same time, I haven’t checked a lot of my messages, too. Other than that, I don’t think anything of it.
Nick Saban chimed in with a comment after that answer, drawing laughter from the media in attendance: “He’s Sweet Home Alabama now.”
Saban explained his decision to bench starter Jalen Hurts in favor of Tagovailoa.
“We’ve had this in our mind that if we were struggling offensively, that we would give Tua an opportunity, even in the last game,” Saban said after the victory on Monday night. “No disrespect to Jalen (Hurts), but the real thought was, you know, they came into the game thinking we were going to run the ball and be able to run quarterback runs, which we made a couple of explosive plays on. But with the absence of a passing game and being able to make explosive plays and being able to convert on third down, I didn’t feel we could run the ball well enough, and I thought Tua would give us a better chance and a spark, which he certainly did.”