If this is the end for Tua Tagovailoa …
What a run. What a player. What a shame.
Alabama's star quarterback reportedly suffered a dislocated hip that will end his season.
Let's hope that's the only thing ending. Let's hope he has a future in football.
Tagovailoa went into Saturday's game against Mississippi State as a high first-round draft choice, potentially the No. 1 overall pick.
Maybe the best hope now is that Tagovailoa returns healthy to live his life outside football.
We're talking about one of the top five players in the glorious program's history. Tagovailoa earned that designation after playing one full season. He was that good.
Let NFL general managers figure out whether he's injury prone or what this means for his professional future. Let the College Football Playoff Selection Committee decide what -- if any -- consideration a Tagovailoa-less Alabama deserves in December.
Nick Saban's decision to even play his quarterback on Saturday, particularly so late in the first half, has stirred discussion from the corner bar to the nightly news.
All of it seems trivial at the moment. Tagovailoa -- whenever he leaves Alabama -- will be in need of a statue of his own outside of Bryant-Denny Stadium. He's an All-American and Heisman Trophy runner-up at a school that hasn't had a quarterback taken in the first round of the NFL Draft in 43 years.
Is there any doubt that Tagovailoa is the best quarterback in Alabama history? Even better, one of the best people.
A left-handed wonder with a rocket for an arm, the mobility of a gymnast and a smile that charmed the Deep South, Tagovailoa is a Hawaii native whose heart was with USC before his parents decided he would play for the best in Saban.
It was a perfect match. Saban had switched to the spread offense in 2015. Tagovailoa arrived in 2017, taking the offense to another level even if he was initially backing up Jalen Hurts.
That statue, here's how it should look: A recreation of the game-winning pass to DeVonta Smith to beat Georgia in overtime. In relief of Hurts, the true freshman Tagovailoa was the difference in a national championship. He validated Saban's shift to the spread. That offense won't be the same -- at least this year -- and maybe for a long, long time.
The argument over whether Tagovailoa should have played against Mississippi State will loom large in the coming days. Yes, the Crimson Tide were likely going to beat the Bulldogs without Tagovailoa and half of Alabama's starters.
But this is still college football where you're playing for glory and not playing money. At least not technically. You're not saving your body for anything but Saturday night because, for 99 percent of the players, this the last football they will play.
You're playing for the team. You're playing for a ring. If that sounds trite, so what?
Tagovailoa is a gutsy kid who played through two surgically repaired ankles. Twenty days removed from his second tightrope ankle surgery, Tagovailoa last week threw for 400 yards and four touchdowns. He also limped off the field.
Do not question his competitiveness. Saban said he was a series away from taking Tagovailoa out late in the second half. He simply left him in to practice the 2-minute drill.
"We can second guess ourselves all we want," Saban said after the game. "... I don't really make a lot of decisions based on guys getting hurt."
No doubt there will further cries about student-athlete welfare and paying players. In situations like this, it really does seem like they're playing for nothing except the glory.
NCAA insurance will cover Tagovailoa's medical bills. If he has loss-of-draft value insurance, that maxes out at $10 million, per industry standards. With Tagovailoa, we're talking about a possible $35 million payday if he were to have gone No. 1 overall. (That's what was available to the Cardinals in the rookie pool for 2019's overall No. 1 pick Kyler Murray.)
That's a discussion for the future. Every time a player goes out on the field, he risks his health. It's already a shame that Saban is being blamed in the court of public opinion.
"It's the obligation of the coach to get his team ready," former Ohio State and Florida coach Urban Meyer said during a Fox broadcast. "He sees Auburn down the road [on Nov. 30]."
Meyer revealed how delicate such decisions can be. Tim Tebow was injured with a concussion against Kentucky in 2009. With a bye week coming up, Meyer had made the decision Tebow would sit out the next game against LSU. Tebow was cleared by doctors early in that game week, Meyer revealed Saturday. He said the quarterback and his father "came to my house" to confront the coach and demand that Tebow play against the Tigers.
"We got into it a little bit," Meyer said, relaying a story I'd never heard before.
Tebow played. Florida won 13-3 and eventually won the SEC East in Tebow's final season. That turned out to be the right decision.
"He's hurt," Meyer said of Saban. "We're all hurt watching a thing like that."
Sometimes, fate sucks. There was a lot of bad juju for the Tide on Saturday. At least three other starters were knocked out against Mississippi State.
All of it is a shame. It's terrible. It's also bad news for Alabama from here to the CFP Selection Committee war room. That committee will have to consider Alabama's playoff worthiness with backup Mac Jones.
With all due respect to Jones, that's not a good thing for Bama 10 games into the season.
But like everything else Saturday, that's on the periphery of the discussion.
If Tagovailoa's run at Alabama is over, first start considering his legacy.
Then start building the statue.