Dolphins' Tua Tagovailoa recalls 'fears and doubts' about slipping out of 1st round in 2020 NFL Draft


Tua Tagovailoa was a quarterback every team wanted before the start of the 2019 college football season, which would eventually be his last with the Alabama Crimson Tide.

“Tank for Tua” was in full swing. But a serious hip injury and a broken nose against Mississippi State threw his draft stock awry. Not to mention, the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic through the draft process off entirely. The entire draft itself was held virtually for the first time.

Most draft experts believed that even with the injury, Tagovailoa was going to be taken early in the first round – it was just a matter of when. Joe Burrow was first off the board, followed by Chase Young, Jeff Okudah and Andrew Thomas. The Dolphins then selected Tagovailoa with the No. 5 pick of the 2020 draft.

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Tua Tagovailoa vs Ravens

Tua Tagovailoa of the Miami Dolphins looks to pass against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Dec. 31, 2023. (Michael Owens/Getty Images)

Tagovailoa, in a recent interview with Fox News Digital, said he could’ve been one of the first three chosen if he was healthy and that some fear crept in that he would be left out of the first round because of the injuries.

“I think for my particular draft class, I had a unique deal going on because, for one, it was COVID. COVID was going on,” he said. “And then, two, I was also dealing with an injury leading up to the draft. I had my hip injury, and then I also, like, broke my nose at the same time. I was also in this gray area of, OK, I know if I were healthy, I could have had an opportunity to be the first draft pick or the second or the third, you know, outside the top five.”

“But for me, there was also some fears and doubts of not being in the first round just because of the injury and just because the guys that have played were healthy, and they also had really good seasons coming out into that draft – the quarterbacks coming out into that draft,” he continued.

Tagovailoa added that he felt a sigh of relief when he heard his name called fifth.

“So, when I did get the call, when I was able to hear my name was going to be called across the ticker or be called by [Commissioner] Roger Goodell, there was a sigh of relief,” Tagovailoa said. “But then, I don’t think people really understand, like, once you get called, and you’re a first-round draft pick, there’s so much more that comes with you being a first-round draft pick.”

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Tua Tagovaioa in 2020 draft

Tua Tagovailoa shows off the lining of his jacket during the first round of the NFL Draft on April 23, 2020. (NFL via Getty Images)

“The weight of that organization, that team, for you to step in right way … like, nobody cares how young you are,” he said. “Nobody cares about any of that. They want to know what you can do for us now. So, for me, all of that is running through my head, and I can feel the pressure of having to come in and try to be the superstar and do amazing things for the team. It was a little roller coaster, too, during my draft year. As I can recall, those were some of the feelings that I had that year in 2020.”

The expectations have been enormous for Tagovailoa going in, with Dolphins fans hoping the next Dan Marino will step onto the field at Hard Rock Stadium.

During his rookie season, he split time with Ryan Fitzpatrick, and then injuries hampered his second year. In years 3 and 4, he showcased what he could do with the right game plan and weapons around him.

He talked about managing all of the expectations around him.

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Tua Tagovailoa walks off the field

Tua Tagovailoa (Brandon Sloter/Image Of Sport/Getty Images/File)

“I’m about to go into year 5 with my profession. I would say, the person that you were last year is different than the person you are this year. The person you are two years ago is a totally different person [than] the person you were last year,” he told Fox News Digital. “And I would say the same stands true for me.”

“I wish I knew what I know now then when I was a rookie coming in. In these professions, having to deal with people, having to be placed in a leadership role – you learn to grow up fast, but then I think the cool thing about it, too, is you’re ever growing, you’re ever evolving. It’s just the nature of the beast … being in any profession that entails competition and whatnot. 

“For me, the way I’ve been able to deal with it is just being able to come to the realization that, dude, none of this is going to go away. As you’re playing, none of this is going to go away. But yeah, as you start to age, and you start to get out of your prime area of your playing days, then it’ll probably start to die down. Then you can start to be given excuses about things.”

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“I think for me, it’s just, dude, here’s the state of the union. It is what it is. What are you going to do about it? That’s sort of the mind frame I have with it.”

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