Tagovailoa named 7A Back of the Year

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

MONTGOMERY – Having gone from not even on the mainland of the United States to the state of Alabama, Taulia Tagovailoa had no idea what to expect when he headed to Alabaster, Alabama to suit up for the Thompson Warriors.

What followed for the rising senior was one of the most successful season ever for a quarterback in the state as he amassed 3,823 passing yards, which passed John Parker Willson for third all-time in the state, and totaled 35 touchdowns.

After racking up plenty of postseason hardware, the most recent award came on Tuesday, Jan. 30, when the junior was named the Alabama Sports Writer Association’s Class 7A Back of the Year, as well as finishing third in the state’s Mr. Football voting for the best player in the state.

“It’s just God’s plan for me to be where I’m at right now,” Tagovailoa said. “I really didn’t expect this year to be this crazy and incredible, but you trust in God’s plan and he overachieves and overfills our cup.”

Tagovailoa came to Thompson from Kapolei High School, which resides less than two miles from the beach on the Island of O’ahu in Hawaii.

He came in and led the Warriors, who seemed a quarterback away from being undefeated last year, to their first win over Hoover in school history; to a perfect area record in what many consider to be the toughest region in the state to help his team grab its first region championship since 1997; to their first playoff berth since 2007, to their first time past the second round of the playoffs since 1987; and to their best season since 1982.

Those are the historic marks that led Tagovailoa to being named a finalist for the Class 7A Back of the Year award. And with it being his last of many postseason awards ceremonies, Tagovailoa expressed the excitement of being part of such a prestigious gathering.

“It’s just a blessing, everyone looks sharp and the food is delicious,” Tagovailoa said with a quick laugh before turning to a serious note. “It’s so great to sit around a table with some amazing athletes that have the same goals and are trying to accomplish the same things as you.”

About the same time Tagovailoa transferred in, teammate Ahmad Edwards made the decision to transfer from Montevallo, which led to an immediate bonding opportunity.

“We had a quick bond my first day there and that allowed us to get extremely close,” Edwards said. “A teammate like Taulia doesn’t come every day. He’s just a really good person.”

Ahmad Edwards, second from right, stands next to his quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa as both were finalists for the Class 7A Back of the Year award. (Reporter photo/Keith McCoy)

It’s a relationship that blossomed that first day and exploded during the 2017 football season as Tagovailoa and Edwards had a connection stronger than the game of football.

That connection off the field led to an incredible time on the field as Edwards was on the receiving end of 118 of Tagovailoa’s 264 completions.

Those 118 receptions set a state record for most in a season, while he totaled 1,464 receiving yards, which ranks fifth all-time in the state’s history, as well as 13 touchdowns.

“God blessed me with the ability to play this game and an incredible coach like coach (Mark) Freeman, a quarterback like Taulia and the best teammates around,” Edwards said. “It was such a blessing playing with them and I’ll have a family for the rest of my life with them.”

Edwards’ strong season not only led to him being one of three finalists for the Class 7A Back of the Year alongside Tagovailoa, but also led to him being voted seventh in the Mr. Football award voting as he received 65 total votes.

“He and I started as friends and we’re departing as brothers,” Tagovailoa said of his trusty sidekick. “Put aside football, it’s just a blessing to become brothers and to be a part of all of my teammate’s families. That’s just truly special.”

Tagovailoa was third on that list, one vote behind Pinson Valley’s Bo Nix and 27 votes behind 2017 Mr. Football winner Asa Martin from Austin High School.

He mentioned how much Shadrick Byrd, himself and other teammates need to up their game next season as he’s already focused on being a more vocal leader to duplicate the success.