football Edit

Tua Tagovailoa talks Bryce Young, Mac Jones during his return to Alabama

It’s been nearly two years since Tua Tagovailoa brought Bryant-Denny Stadium to its feet with his play on the field. However, the Miami Dolphins quarterback made sure to provide plenty of excitement during his return trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala. on Tuesday night.

Tagovailoa scheduled the return trip to his old haunts to hold his first-ever charity event for the Tua Foundation, a non-profit organization that will focus on giving back to Alabama as well as his home state of Hawaii and his new home in the Miami area.

The event dubbed “Luau with Tua” featured Polynesian food, knife dancing and silent auctions to raise money for the Nick’s Kids Foundation as well as the Boys and Girls Clubs of West Alabama.

Before the event, Tagovailoa took time to speak with local reporters about a variety of topics. Here’s a full transcript of the interview.

On the event and being back in Tuscaloosa

“Tonight, I think, is a really good night. It really feels good to be back in Bryant-Denny. A lot of memories were made here, and I wouldn’t be where I am without the things that happened on that field out there. I’m really glad to be back here.”

On what this celebration means to him

“Well, for me, what it means is to able to give back. That’s what we’re going to do tonight. I don’t want to spill the beans on what we’re doing, but I can tell you that we’re giving back to Nick’s Kids and then also to the Boys and Girls Clubs of West Alabama. Just to give back to the organizations that have kind of had an impact on my life.

"Especially with Coach Saban, I think the best way for me to give back to him is to give towards his foundation. Also, I support what he believes in as well. It’s really about giving back.”

On how important was it to have this even in Tuscaloosa 

“I think it was important to have it here because this is kind of a stepping stone that I took to get to where I’m at now. The biggest thing that I can say is that wanted to give back, and this is one way I know of giving back.”

On reflecting back on everything that has gone on since the last time he was in Bryant-Denny Stadium 

“It’s been a journey, but I think it’s been a really good journey. It’s been a pretty impactful journey in my life, I’d say. I’m just really glad to be back and excited to give back to the communities and see what we can do tonight. I’m glad my family gets to be here to support this even with me.

"The biggest thing I want to do is thank a lot of the sponsors who are here today. I want to thank them. I want to thank my family for being out here, and I want to thank my board members for helping make this possible as well.”

On if he talked with Mac Jones about playing in the same division

“I never had the opportunity to talk to Mac. I’ve been busy with our team. I know he’s been really busy competing with the guys at New England.

“If he ever wants to talk, I’m here. I think it’s hard with what he has going on. Him having to study the playbook with it being his first year as well. I know the kind of perfectionist he is, so I know he’s going to be studying a lot.”

On his transition to his second season in the NFL

“Well, I think of it as my freshman year here at Alabama. My sophomore year, I wish I knew the things I knew my freshman year. It’s sort of the same transition for me in the pros. With my rookie year, I wish I knew what I know now than I did my rookie year. I think that’s just the learning curve, and that’s just the process of how you’ve got to grow yourself in the NFL.”

On his thoughts about name image likeness (NIL)

“Personally, it is what it is. That’s what I’d say. Whether they do it or whether they don’t, it is what it is.”

On how it’s been reuniting with Jaylen Waddle

“It’s been good. It’s always exciting I think when you get to reunite with a former teammate as well as a familiar face. I’m really excited just to have the group of guys that we have this year.”

On Alabama’s recent success at quarterback

“I think if you’re a competitor, I think you obviously want to come to the best. What better place to do that then Alabama. That was kind of my mindset coming into the University of Alabama my freshman year. I think we all helped each other develop and grow as a quarterback.”

On if he watched Bryce Young during A-Day and if he has any advice 

“I did get to see a little bit of the game. I think he’s doing pretty good. It’s always hard to tell because this is really his first year really taking over. But just stay calm, do what you did in high school, and you should be fine.”

On if he sees any similarities between his game and Young’s 

“I wouldn’t say I see similarities between my game and his game. I think he’s really instinctive. He can extend plays really well. He has a really good arm, and he’s very talented. But I wasn’t a runner like him. He can run.”

On one thing he learned from his first season in the NFL

“That’s a really good question. I would say there’s a lot of things that I took. I think the biggest thing I took away from this past year coming into this year is just understanding that the new week is a new slate. You can’t really carry over the win to the next week because you take your focus really off of preparing for that week’s game.”

On the culture shock coming to Tuscaloosa from Hawaii 

“I wouldn’t say it was much of a culture shock. A lot of people in Hawaii almost have the same beliefs, have the same food. The only thing is we don’t have any mountains up here. If you really want to go into it, if Tuscaloosa was an area in Hawaii, you’d have a 15-minute drive to go to the beach. Now you have to drive about four hours to Orange Beach just to get to the beach. Those were just some of the differences, but really not much of a change.”

On playing in front of bigger crowds this season

"I think that’s going to be really cool. I never got to really experience it in the NFL setting, but I think it’s going to be cool. I’m looking forward to it.”

On if he realized how talented Alabama’s quarterback room was with himself, Mac Jones and Jalen Hurts

“Never really had those type of conversations in our quarterback room. It was always asking questions on, ‘How did you do this?’ or, ‘Why did that work so good for you?’ Then trying to go out there and everyone figuring out on their own, and we’re all coaching each other up. But we all learned from each other, it wasn’t just one person. That was the good thing about it.”