As a reserve true freshman quarterback at Alabama in 2017, Tua Tagovailoa was faced with a dilemma. He wanted to play, but the five-star rookie sat behind sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts, who the season before had won SEC Freshman of the Year honors and led the Crimson Tide to within one score of a national championship before losing to Clemson.
Tagovailoa did play sparingly, but he wasn't the starter. And even as a true freshman at a program as prestigious as Alabama, that's exactly what he wanted. So to satisfy that desire, he says he considered transferring to a program he grew up a huge fan of: USC.
"It was really close I think," Tagovailoa said Wednesday in an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show when asked about a potential transfer to the Trojans in 2017. "I wanted my parents to see me play, my parents wanted to see me play. Just making my parents happy and proud was the biggest thing I wanted to do, and I couldn't do it on the sideline."
Tagovailoa ultimately chose to stay put. He played in only seven regular season games, mostly in relief of Hurts. But then, at halftime of the national championship game that season, Nick Saban made a bold and unexpected move. Saban benched Hurts at halftime, and threw Tagovailoa into action. This is how that worked out:
In hindsight, it's an incredible moment that had impact on Alabama, USC and even Oklahoma. Perhaps if Tagovailoa leaves, Hurts finishes his career and never transfers to Oklahoma (which he did this past offseason as a graduate transfer). Perhaps if Tagovailoa leaves, USC would be in a different spot than it is now. And perhaps if Tagovailoa had already left, Georgia would have won the national championship instead. All the what-ifs!
All we know is that now Tagovailoa has grown into a bona fide NFL prospect and a Heisman Trophy contender to boot as a junior for the Crimson Tide, and now he's glad he stuck it out.
"If I gave in," he told Hawaii News Now in 2018, "I don't think I would have seen the end blessing of where I am now."