As most coaches are, Alabama’s Nick Saban was hesitant to compare a college player to a great professional.
Then, when it came to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, he did it anyway.
Saban told Albert Breer of SI.com that his former quarterback had traits in common with some of the best in the game.
“I think he’s a lot like Drew Brees. I always thought Aaron Rodgers was a lot like that as a player too,” Saban said. “Not overly big, accurate with the ball, really good judgment, decision-making. Those guys are the style of player. I would never say the expectation should be he would accomplish what those guys have, I’d never wanna put that on a guy. But that’s the style of player he is.”
Like Brees, the 6-foot Tagovailoa doesn’t have the kind of measurables people look for in quarterbacks, but Saban sees qualities that are far more important.
“Really can rid of the ball quickly, and his accuracy is unbelievable, which, to me, is the most compelling thing a quarterback can have,” Saban said. “It’s good judgment about where you throw the ball, get it out of your hand when you need to get it out of your hand, and be accurate with it so the people that are catching it can catch it and run with it. That’s what he is. He makes a lot of really, really good throws in tight windows, which is the biggest difference between college quarterbacks and pro quarterbacks.
“Pro quarterbacks have to do that because there’s a lot more man-to-man. I think he’s proven that he can do that in his college career here.”
Of course, the questions for Tagovailoa over the next few months won’t be about his talent, but his surgically repaired hip. Saban didn’t want to get into the details of that either, but said he knows his former quarterback has taken the right approach to the rehab.
“I would call him every day when he first got hurt. I’d called him that Saturday night, and I was down and out about him getting hurt. And he would be positive and upbeat,” Saban said. “I was calling him to lift his spirits, and he would lift mine. And I’d call him the next day, and say, ‘I’m gonna lift Tua, support him in every way.’ Again, calling him to lift his spirits and he would lift mine. All through that process, he was so positive.
“He just had a great outlook about the whole thing and was just looking forward to what he had to do to try to get better. He wanted to go to the games and support his teammates. He did more to help me through it than I helped him. And it was my job to help him.”
Soon, he’ll have the chance to do it for an NFL team, if he’s able.