Former Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota has one of the biggest football games of his life in a matter of days, but even he can’t get enough of the Tua Tagovailoa talk that has swept the nation’s football landscape since Alabama’s national title victory on Monday night.
Mariota, who will lead the Tennessee Titans into an AFC divisional round playoff game against Tom Brady’s New England Patriots on Saturday night, stayed up late to watch Tagovailoa lead the Crimson Tide to a comeback overtime victory against Georgia after replacing Jalen Hurts at halftime.
“Tua is a stud. He’s the next guy coming up. Proud of him,” Mariota said, according to ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe. “From where that kid’s come, how he’s grown and how he handled the situation last night, he’s very special. Hopefully he can continue his success. I’m sure you guys saw the interview after the game. That’s who he is.”
The two share a friendship that stems back to Mariota’s days Saint Louis High School in Honolulu, Hawaii. Both quarterbacks played their prep ball there before taking the big college football stage.
Wolfe reports that Mariota sent Tagovailoa a congratulatory text message for winning the national title game as a true freshman. It’s a feat that Mariota was unable to complete during his college days at Oregon, though he came close. The Ducks lost the national title game to Urban Meyer’s Ohio State squad in January 2015.
“It’s nice to see someone like him continue to carry the torch from back home,” Mariota said, per Wolfe.
While Tagovailoa has hoisted the trophy that Mariota could not, he still has a long road ahead if he wants to match the college career of the mentor he met while in the fourth grade. Mariota threw for 10,796 yards, rushed for 2,237 yards and accounted for 134 touchdowns during a three-year stint as the Oregon quarterback from 2013-15.