Nick Saban has won four national championships, four SEC championships and has seen 18 former Alabama players get drafted in the first round in his nine years with the Crimson Tide, but he hasn’t accomplished one thing until now.
Four-star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa from Saint Louis School in Honolulu has decided to commit to Alabama over Southern California, Ole Miss and UCLA. Tagovailoa fills the much-needed void Alabama had at quarterback in the Class of 2017 after Jake Fromm decided to flip his commitment from Alabama to Georgia in March.
Tagovailoa, the nation’s No. 2 dual-threat quarterback, and his family, traveled more than 4,000 miles from home a few weeks ago to visit Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss. After the extended stay in Tuscaloosa, Tagovailoa knew Alabama was the school for him, but he and his family held off on committing during the visit so they can have the opportunity to celebrate with people in his community.
Being the first Hawaiian prospect to have the opportunity to play for Alabama means a lot to Tagovailoa.
“We wanted to wait and make it official here and make it special because it’s something that no Hawaiian kid has gone through,” Tagovailoa told SEC Country.
“Nobody at any position and no one in general, as far as I know, has gotten the opportunity to play at Alabama or even just attend the school. It’s such a blessing.”
Throughout the majority of Tagovailoa’s recruitment, most people close to him thought he would end up at Southern California — a school that he has classified in the past as his “dream school.” For over a year, the Trojans led for his services, but the grip they held loosened after the Crimson Tide extended a scholarship offer his way in mid-March.
His father, Galu, and his mother, Diane, have said that Southern California will hold a special place in their hearts, but now they, along with members in the Hawaiian community, have a new team to root for.
“It’s been amazing how the people here have been very supportive. They are so excited,” Galu Tagovailoa said. “They want to watch him play in the SEC, especially at Alabama. I don’t think many people expected someone from the island to have Alabama come out here and recruit him. In Saban’s time at Alabama, he has not gotten a kid from Hawaii, so this is very special for us.”
So how does Alabama end up becoming the school you want to attend after being in love with Southern Cal for over a year? It’s a simple question to answer for the Tagovailoas. Despite how crazy this may sound to some, Tuscaloosa reminds them of Honolulu.
“You can’t really lose yourself if you’re a kid from Hawaii going to Alabama,” Tua said. “Things down here in Hawaii are similar to Alabama. We go to church every Sunday. People are treated like family there just like here. There are many similarities there and you want to be somewhere that feels like home and that’s what Alabama feels like.”
His mother echoed that same comfortability that her son felt when they visited Tuscaloosa. She said “everything from the mom’s point of view was covered.” That included things such as when her son would have time to go to church, to the dorm he would be living in and to the nutritional program Alabama offers.
“I was comfortable because Tua was comfortable. He felt like at home,” Diane Tagovailoa said. “Even speaking to the other athletes that were there, they were very genuine and sincere. I trust the decision he makes. If I felt that it wasn’t the right choice then I would let him know about it. He knows what’s good and not good. He just felt good about it.”
Some fans may wonder if Tua will stick with his commitment being that reality may not have set in yet with his decision to attend a college 4,000 miles away from home.
That subject may have been one the family discussed for the longest amount of time. It’s obviously the biggest move Tua will have experienced when that time comes, but he’s ready for it. He won’t have second thoughts when it comes to the distance he will be from his parents.
“If you’re going to leave the island, it really doesn’t matter how far away the place is,” Tua said. “Hawaii is around five hours away from the mainland. What’s five more hours to any flight? There’s really no major difference to adding five more hours. Being away from my family, I knew this was going to have to happen. Every kid has to do it. You have to learn how to grow up.”
His mother said she’s totally at peace with her son’s decision, too. She understands that the opportunity to play for a program like Alabama is what her and her husband have been helping Tua accomplish his entire football career.
“This is what we’ve trained him for. We feel like he’s equipped spiritually to make the decision that is going to be right for him,” Diane Tagovailoa said. “We feel like we have done a good enough job as parents to trust that he’s ready to go soar like an eagle. We want him in a position to be closer to accomplishing his dreams and this decision is going to bring him closer to that goal.”
There is still the possibility of the family moving to the Southeast, but they have not officially decided if that’s what they are going to do just yet.
The Tagovailoas have another son in high school that also plays quarterback, Taulia. He doesn’t attend Saint Louis with Tua. He attends Kapolei High School where he’s the starter. The decision to move to the South would not just be a decision for Tua’s future. That’s why more family talks need to take place before the family decides to move to the South.
If they decided not to move, the family said they are planning on being at as many games as possible, but his mother said they wouldn’t be there often because they want to limit distractions for their son. That won’t stop them from Skyping or FaceTiming Tua as often as they can, she said.
But the decision not to move can be something that Southern California uses in its future recruiting pitches to the quarterback. Tua, the future communications major, notified the schools prior to announcing his commitment of his choice. The Trojans tried to drill it in his head to make sure that this was the decision Tua wanted to make, and it was.
“They were very supportive of my decision,” Tua said of the Southern Cal coaching staff. “They were just telling me to make sure that this was the decision I wanted to make.”
When Tua told his family about his decision to play for Alabama, his father kept on mentioning Southern Cal, UCLA and Ole Miss as other options, but the quarterback wasn’t hearing it. Alabama was the school for him.
“He’s super happy with his decision,” Galu Tagovailoa said. “I could tell that he is set with his choice.”
Tua won’t be an early graduate as of now, but when it comes time to head to his new home of Tuscaloosa, he said he’s most looking forward to meeting up with punter JK Scott, who he said has become his best friend at Alabama.
Tua is excited about the future and acquiring a second family. He got that feeling of happiness and togetherness with the Alabama program. When it comes time to leave his actual family though, Tua will never forget where he came from, even if his mother and father won’t be there every step of the way.
“I’ll probably be an emotional wreck (when he leaves). It’s expected now,” Diane Tagovailoa laughed. “With every offer that came, I always cried. We are just so grateful for being in this position. It’s really just too bad that he has to pick one of these schools. He’s one step closer to his dreams though by going to Alabama.”
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Chris Kirschner covers Alabama football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Bryant-Denny.