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The Legacy of Tua Tagovailoa

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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At a place where it's hard to make history, given the sheer excess of it, Tua Tagovailoa crafted milestones and memories by hand

The impact Tua Tagovailoa made on college football is a lasting one.

One of the greatest quarterbacks the game has ever seen, Tagovailoa leaves Alabama with a legacy that stands out and, quite frankly, stands alone. His story to his statistics, the Hawaii-native, declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft, was a transformational talent for the Crimson Tide. Even as Tagovailoa heads to the next level, his standard, in Tuscaloosa, stays. Tagovailoa won and did so gracefully, both playing and carrying himself with an ease shared by his former teammate Jalen Hurts. All that Tagovailoa did and will accomplish will long carry on.

At a place where it's hard to make history, given the sheer excess of it, Tagovailoa crafted milestones and memories by hand. The hardware he has is more than just rings, rather a very real place in Alabama, SEC and college football history.

Simply put, the production was unparalleled. Tagovailoa completed over 69% of his passes for 7,442 yards, 87 touchdowns and just eleven interceptions, good for a career passer rating of 199.4; for point of reference, the overall single season passer rating mark before Tagovailoa moved into a starting role was 198.92. He ultimately rewrote the record books and helped establish a new standard for college football passing proficiency.

It's not just what Tagovailoa did, but where he did it that makes his career so special. Adding to the work of some of his high-profile predecessors, Tagovailoa helped usher in a new era of offensive productivity at Alabama, expanding the identity of a program that had long won championships with a consistent and specific tried-and-true approach. Tagovailoa, additionally, seemed to handle the spotlight that comes with playing quarterback for the Crimson Tide naturally. The end result, with countless awards and wins, was a Hall of Fame career.

By every measure, including those that he now holds, Tagovailoa's run was one for the ages. As a true freshman, with all due respect to Doug Flutie, Tagovailoa delivered the signature throw in college football history with his game-winning strike to DeVonta Smith in Alabama's national championship triumph over Georgia. He earned MVP honors in the biggest game of the year in the first significant action of his career. Tagovailoa, as a sophomore, set college football's single season passer rating record at 199.4. As a junior, playing in just nine games, he improved on that historic margin with a final tally of 206.93.

One of the most impressive aspects of Tagovailoa's career is that, in 2018, he, at the very least, had one of college football's greatest seasons ever. Somehow, Tagovailoa came back this past year and was even better. His completion percentage jumped from 69% to 71.4%, yards per pass attempt from 11.2 to 11.3 and his touchdown-to-interception ratio improved from 43-to-6 to 33-to-3. After zero 400-yard outings as a sophomore, Tagovailoa had three 400-yard performances as a junior, all while missing a chunk of the season due to injury.

For critics who don't seem to think Tagovailoa has positive momentum as he transitions to the NFL, the numbers would disagree.

As a quarterback prospect who is on the road to recovery and getting healthy after suffering injuries to his hip, Tagovailoa checks every box. He is one of the most accurate and efficient signal callers in the history of the game, has an uncanny ability to read opposing defenses, displays ideal leadership traits, has been developed under a legend and former NFL head coach in Nick Saban and two former NFL offensive coordinators in Steve Sarkisian and Brian Daboll and more than meets whatever physical requirements the next level has.

It goes without saying thatTagovailoa is, far and away, an NFL franchise quarterback; he is the same player and person long projected to go number one overall.

The decision to forgoe his senior season of eligibility and enter the NFL Draft is a clear sign that Tagovailoa trusts the process; that he, well on the road to recovery, believes he will be able to play sooner rather than later and is ready for all of the responsibility that comes with being a first round draft pick at the quarterback position. That matters. Tagovailoa is betting on himself ahead of his high-profile transition, a conviction that, from Hawaii to Alabama and the bench to the spotlight, has long come with success.

Tagovailoa's professional potential will now be the hot talking point, but his college career should continue to be too. In the history of the game, there isn't a  multi-year showcase quite like Tagovailoa's at Alabama. Records reflect that. Going all of the way back to his iconic throw in the national championship game as a true freshman, Tagovailoa has earned his way into the exclusive conversation for best college quarterback of all time; that foundation, along with his rock-solid base, is Tagovailoa's springboard forward.

What Tagovailoa meant and means to Alabama goes well beyond the box score. A winner on and off the field, his influence remains. Tagovailoa, all that he accomplished and represents, is now a proud part of program lore. The Crimson Tide are one of college football's leading brands and Tagovailoa is a very real part of that tradition.

The tale of Tagovailoa is one soon set for a thrilling new chapter. It's also one that should be told time and time again.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports