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Taulia Tagovailoa headed to All-American Bowl

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

ALABASTER – With Warrior Arena packed to the brim on Wednesday, Oct. 17, current Thompson starting quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa sat in the center of the gym with his Dad, mom and two sisters to his right, and his head coach to the left as a representative from the American Family Insurance All-American Bowl honored the Alabama commit with his All-American Bowl jersey.

Tagovailoa will compete in what has been known as the U.S. Army All-American Bowl for the last several years and joins a cast of former and current football greats, including his older brother Tua as well as Tim Tebow, Odell Beckham Jr., Andrew Luck and Jalen Ramsey.

“It’s amazing,” Taulia said. “My brother played in this game, and now I get to play in it. It’s just crazy to me.”

Taulia couldn’t recall how his brother did in the game, but chuckled and said he had to one up him when he takes the field on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas.

“It means a lot,” said Taulia’s dad Galu Tagovailoa. “We went through this with our older son Tua, but for Taulia to be a part of this, it’s been great. Such a blessing.”

While the family moved not only to the mainland, but across the country, Galu wasn’t worried about Taulia eventually matching his older brother with this nomination.

“We knew the hard work was going to pay off for Taulia,” he said. “We saw it with Tua, and Tualia has done the same things to be great just like Tua did. Everything just felt right, and I knew he had handled this the best way anybody could. The payoff is really to our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. It’s just a platform, we are utilizing it to praise him.”

For Taulia, it took some getting used to, but eventually, thanks to the prayer and advice from both his dad and mom Diane, he realized the situation he was in.

“My parents prayed a lot when we moved,” he said. “When I first got here, I didn’t want to be here. I told my parents and my teammates that I didn’t want to be here and they didn’t need to sell me on anything. My parents told me this was God’s plan for us and it’s only right for us to follow, that we couldn’t miss out on the blessing and pan he has for us.

“Since then we have been training and doing what we need to do. Now I realize why they said that, and I would rather be here now than in Hawaii.”

Since moving, Taulia has thrown for 6,496 yards and 61 touchdowns in less than two complete seasons. In his career, he now has 12,569 passing yards and 125 touchdown passes.

In his senior season alone, through just seven games, the quarterback has thrown for 2,673 yards and 26 touchdowns. That’s an average of 382 yards and 3.7 touchdowns per game.

Those are once in a generation kind of numbers that don’t come around very often and led to his nomination for the biggest high school All-American game, but the senior, who is about to head off to college, is still learning, thanks to his current head coach Mark Freeman.

“In Hawaii, everything was west coast,” Taulia said. “But out here, everything is SEC, and how to be a champion and winning championships. Freeman put the mindset into me that you have to be a dog. His impact on the football field has been incredible, but off the field is just as special and probably what has helped me the most.

“I’ll call him about stuff off the field and he’ll pray for me, or he’ll call me out of the blue to tell me he is praying for me. That’s the kind of people I really want to be around and that can impact your life.”

It’s a relationship that goes both ways, which made it a special day for Freeman as well.

“For Taulia to not only have the faith in us, but for our teammates to have the faith in him has been truly special to watch unfold these last two years,” Freeman said. “To make such a drastic move and change in life is a hard thing to handle, but his faith to buy into us has been unbelievable. We are excited for Taulia, and this day is all about honoring and recognizing him for everything he has done.”

Gaining that kind of relationship and closeness to a coach comes from his parents, who he knows are what got him there.

“I think we’ve been blessed with parents that showed us parenting is never done no matter what the circumstances are,” Diane said. “Our parents always continued to parent us every day, so I think we lead by example by showing our kids how we still honor our parents and that’s something we are trying to pass on to them so that our days may be long. They buy into it.”

“They’ve always been good kids,” Galu said. “They’ve been so obedient to us and people in authority. That’s just part of the Samoan culture upbringing. We couldn’t be more proud of the men they are becoming.”

Buying into it has helped them not only be respectful to their peers, but their teammates, which became obvious throughout the ceremony.

Sitting in the front row of the ceremony were his Thompson Warrior teammates, a couple of who were trying to avoid chocking up and all of who were smiling.

But one voice in the group whispered, ‘We love you man,’ just loud enough for the people around him to hear. This came from somebody he didn’t even know just two years ago, which shows the impact Taulia has on his teammates, as well as the belief they have in each other.

“It’s just all love and family here,” Taulia said. “When I first got here that’s how they were to me, and to continue to hear stuff like that just makes you feel blessed and you can’t help but be thankful.”

Now, Taulia and those teammates will focus on the remainder of the 2018 season. While the All-American nomination is special, the Warriors still have two top-10 opponents in their final three games, an out-of-state game against Crestview (Florida) and a hopeful run at the state championship.