MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The Miami Dolphins’ audience got up and made more noise than it had ever had during a 24-0 win over the New York Jets when rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa ran on the field for his first NFL action.
Ryan Fitzpatrick waved his arms up and down in hopes of pumping the audience even higher up. Other teammates clapped and hugged the sideline in anticipation.
Nearly a year since Tagovailoa suffered a frightening, possibly career-ending hip injury in Alabama on November 16, 2019, it was Tua Time.
In the final minutes of the game, Dolphins coach Brian Flores told Tagovailoa to warm up, and with just over two minutes left, Tagovailoa stepped into the game and threw his first two NFL passes, both finishes.
Chants of “Tua” rang out as he ran on the track.
“I know there was some excitement when he walked in. I’m happy for Tua,” Flores said.
Fitzpatrick added: “It was just a cool moment for him, just the reception from the crowd that was here and us on the sidelines.”
Tagovailoa also became the first left-handed quarterback to complete a pass since Kellen Moore to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17 of the 2015 season.
“Yes, I could definitely hear it. There is nothing else playing in the stadium so I could hear it,” Tagovailoa said. “And it was great. But just being out there with my teammates who were my first time and getting support and love from them, I think it was super amazing. And then you have a 16-year-old vet like Fitz who has hostility towards that too who has just supported all the time.Good driving, bad driving, he comes to the sidelines and just talks through his process of why he did some things.I am very lucky to have a mentor like him who is just very encouraging on the pitch and then this guy like him is just very naked also off the pitch. “
After the match, Tagovailoa returned to the field and sat in the middle of the 15 yard line alone in full uniform for approx. 10 minutes soaking at the moment.
Tua Tagovailoa went back to the field and he sits around the 15-yard line in full uniform. It seems he is sucking in this moment.
On November 16, 2019, Tua suffered a potentially career-ending injury. On October 18, 2020, he threw his first NFL passes. pic.twitter.com/q5OHSNQe2c
– Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) October 18, 2020
He tried to find the place where his Dolphins run ended, and then FaceTimed his parents, who could not be there to watch him play. They watch almost every game and he would share the moment with him. He said the conversation was emotional, especially because of all that is required for him to get back on that field.
“The biggest thing that really stands out to me is just being able to make my parents proud,” Tagovailoa said. “Whether it’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 to see how happy my parents become and then see how happy my family becomes so good with who I am and also what I do. “
On Tagovailoa’s first pass, he came on a naked bootleg in his own end zone, throwing a short pass over two Jets defenders to run back Patrick Laird for a 2-yard finish. His second pass was also impressive, a 7-yard finish to receiver Jakeem Grant for the team’s only third-down conversion of the game.
“The naked in your own end zone is not the easiest of plays, and he went in and finished one and then finished third-down, so I think it was a cool moment for him,” Fitzpatrick said. “Just the reception too of the fans who were here. And everyone on the sidelines. We’re all happy he’s coming out of there.”
Tagovailoa declared himself healthy and he proved he could make the mobile games that made him special in Alabama.
“It was just a glimpse of what was to come,” said Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who gave Tagovailoa a bear hug after the game.