Tagovailoa makes NFL debut in Dolphins’ blowout

  • Covered the Broncos for two seasons with the Denver Post
  • Graduate of the University of Houston
  • A native of Jackson, Miss.

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins crowd rose to its feet making more noise than it had at any point during a 24-0 victory over the New York 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.”

“I could hear it. That was awesome,” Tagovailoa said. “Being out there with my teammates and being able to get the love and support for me, that was awesome. Then to have a 16-year vet there who has no animosity toward me, just support… I’m very fortunate to have a mentor like him.

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 mentioned the conversation was emotional particularly because everything it took for him to get back on that field.

Tagovailoa’s first pass came on a naked bootleg in his own end zone, he throw a short pass over two Jets defenders to running back Patrick Laird for a two-yard completion. The crowd erupted. A glimpse of Tagovailoa’s athleticism and accuracy in one swoop. His second pass was also impressive, a seven-yard completion to receiver Jakeem Grant for the team’s only third down conversion of the game.

Tagovailoa declared himself healthy, and he was happy to prove that he could make the mobile plays that made him special at Alabama. Most of all, he was happy to make his parents proud.

“It was just a glimpse of what’s going to be to come,” said defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who gave Tagovailoa a bear hug after the game.

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