Dolphins debut brought tears for Tua's parents, now they're determined to be there for his first start

Safid Deen, Sun Sentinel
·5 min read

As the Miami Dolphins celebrated their shutout victory over the New York Jets in the locker room Sunday, rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa walked by himself back onto the Hard Rock Stadium field to share a moment with the two most important people in his life.

Tagovailoa walked to the 15-yard line, near where the first drive of his NFL career ended, to sit down, lean back on his left elbow and hold his iPhone in his right hand for a FaceTime call with his parents, Galu and Diane, to soak it all in.

“I think the most important thing that came out of my conversation with my parents was just that they were happy to see me out there and playing again, especially with what happened last year prior to the injury and whatnot,” Tagovailoa said after his first game since suffering his gruesome hip injury last November while playing for Alabama.

Typically, the Tagovailoas don’t miss any of their oldest son’s games. They’ve attended three games this season, but were not in South Florida for the game that eventually became his NFL debut.

Maybe, that was a good thing for Tagovailoa, who made light of the situation with his parents during their call.

“(Tua) just wanted to let me know he was good and let his mom know. And his mom was just crying, just telling him we should’ve been there,” Galu Tagovailoa told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “He was like, ‘Yeah, I know, but I think if you guys were here, I wouldn’t have played.’”

The Tagovailoa family may no longer miss any more Dolphins home games after Tagovailoa was named Miami’s starting quarterback Tuesday for their Week 8 game against the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 1.

Tagovailoa had gone back and forth with his parents as the three contemplated whether they should travel from Alabama to South Florida for the Jets game.

Tagovailoa’s parents were initially going to fly, but the former Alabama standout did not want them to risk their health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Then, the plan was for them to drive from Alabama, like they did for Dolphins’ games against Buffalo, in Jacksonville and against Seattle.

They were going to bring his beloved dogs, Dallas and Star, to spend time with him, too. But the idea of having his parents drive with both pets to and from Alabama just for a weekend, seemed like an arduous task.

There was also another issue, based on the first five games of the Dolphins season before Tagovailoa’s debut, where he was kept on the sidelines behind starter Ryan Fitzpatrick.

“We didn’t know he was going to play,” Galu Tagovailoa said. “He didn’t know.”

The Tagovailoas were in a meeting Sunday night, when Tagovailoa’s agent Chris Cabott texted Diane to let her know Tua was entering the Jets game.

“She was excited. She was like, ‘My son is in. My son is in.’ I was like are you serious?” Galu Tagovailoa said.

Then, he asked his wife how much time was on the clock. Tagovailoa trotted onto the field with 2:27 remaining to a loud ovation from an announced crowd of 10,772 allowed inside the stadium with respect to COVID-19 precautions.

“I was excited, but not with two minutes,” Galu Tagovailoa said lightheartedly.

Now, the Tagovailoas will get a chance to see their son make his first NFL start when the Dolphins return from their bye in Week 7.

The Dolphins will play a 10-game stretch to end the season, looking to improve on their 3-3 record and second-place standing in the AFC East with a potential run toward a playoff berth.

Galu Tagovailoa says he is grateful to Dolphins coach Brian Flores for how he has handled the first few months of Tagovailoa’s career and to Fitzpatrick for his mentorship.

“As a dad, you always want to see your kids playing, you know what I’m saying? You want to see them on the field. You want to see them doing good things. You want to see them learning. It’s always good to learn from the side mentally. But you don’t get any better learning than being on that field and understanding how things are,” Galu Tagovailoa said.

“At the same time, I want to give thanks to coach Brian Flores and that organization. And we’re also witnessing the good things Fitz is doing. Tua talks a lot about Fitz and his relationship with Fitz. As much as he wants to play, he respects the fact that Fitz is doing a good job.”

When Tagovailoa does take the field for his first NFL start against the Rams on Nov. 1, he will be just as excited and ready for the opportunity as he was for Sunday’s debut.

And Tagovailoa will not miss the opportunity to continue making his family proud in the process.

“I think the biggest thing that really stands out to me is just being able to make my parents proud,” Tua Tagovailoa said. “So 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 then also what I do.”

As for Tagovailoa’s family, they are already making arrangements to be in attendance for his first start.

“The entire family is planning,” Galu Tagovailoa said. “Everyone wants to see Tua play.”

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