Dolphins’ Tagovailoa debuts to rousing reception

Dolphins’ Tagovailoa debuts to rousing reception

The Dolphins crowd rose to its feet, making more noise than it had at any point during a 24-0 victory over the Jets as rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa jogged onto the field for his first NFL action.

Ryan Fitzpatrick waved his arms up and down in hopes of pumping up the crowd even louder. Other teammates clapped and hugged the sideline in anticipation.

Nearly a year since Tagovailoa suffered a scary, potentially career-ending hip injury at Alabama on Nov. 16, 2019, it was Tua Time.

In the final minutes of the game, Dolphins coach Brian Flores told Tagovailoa to warm up, and with a little over two minutes left, Tagovailoa entered the game, throwing his first two NFL passes, both completions.

Chants of “Tua” rang out as he ran onto the field.

“I know there was some excitement when he went in. I’m happy for Tua,” Flores said.

Fitzpatrick added: “That was just a cool moment for him, just the reception from the crowd that was here and us on the sideline.”

Tagovailoa became the first left-handed quarterback to complete a pass since Kellen Moore did so for the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17 of the 2015 season.

“I definitely could hear it. There’s nothing else playing in the stadium, so I could hear that,” Tagovailoa said of the reception. “And that was awesome. But to just be out there with my teammates, being my first time, and getting the support and love from them, I think that was super awesome. And then you have a 16-year vet like Fitz, who has no animosity toward it as well, who’s just been supportive that entire time. Good drive, bad drive, he comes to the sideline and just talks through his process with why he did some things. I’m very fortunate to have a mentor like him who is just very encouraging on the field and then this guy is, like, he’s just very personable off the field as well.”

After the game, Tagovailoa returned to the field, sitting down at the middle of the 15-yard line alone in full uniform for about 10 minutes soaking in the moment.

He tried to find the spot where his Dolphins drive ended and then FaceTimed his parents, who couldn’t be there to see him play. They watch almost every game, and he wanted to share the moment with him. He said the conversation was emotional particularly because of everything it took for him to get back on the field.

“The biggest thing that really stands out to me is just being able to make my parents proud,” Tagovailoa said. “Whether that’s Tua as a football player, Tua as a person, Tua as a son, I think that’s what brings me the most joy is seeing how happy my parents get and then seeing how happy my family gets, as well, with who I am and also what I do.”

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