Tagovailoa shares Polynesian Player of the Year honor

Published 11:56 am Saturday, January 19, 2019

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

HONOLULU, Hawaii – It’s a week that means more than the rest to former Thompson High School quarterback and current University of Alabama quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, as he made the trip back home to compete in the 2019 Polynesian Bowl.

On Friday, Jan. 18, that trip back home became even more special after Tagovailoa was honored by being announced as the 2018 Polynesian Co-Player of the Year alongside USC commit Puka Nacua.

With a Samoan background, this award means more than the typical postseason football awards he and his older brother Tua Tagovailoa typically receive because of its representation to a culture that enriched the majority of their lives.

“I’m home,” Tagovailoa said. “This award means a lot to me because of how important my culture is to me and my family.”

It’s a culture that Taulia and his parents Galu and Diane Tagovailoa referenced many times throughout his senior season at Thompson as to what makes their family so close and their children such good kids.

With the move from Hawaii to Alabama when Tua joined the Crimson Tide, the family’s culture and faith may have been tested, especially a reluctant Taulia, but his support system was so strong that eventually his eyes were opened and he saw why everything was unfolding the way it was.

Now, almost three years after moving to Alabama, Taulia is back home. He’s just a few miles down the road from Kapolei High School where he played his first two high school football seasons as he’ll play his last game in Aloha Stadium, closing out his high school career back home where it began.

So to say this award means more and this Poly bowl means more, it’s an understatement.

“This is such a huge blessing, and I can’t thank the Polynesian bowl enough for picking me to represent their bowl game,” Tagovailoa said. “My family and all the people I grew up with get to see me play my final high school game.”

It’s a culture that will never leave him, and one he will always be honored to represent as others, including his older brother, still represent their cultural background strongly to this day.

Tua was named the collegiate Polynesian Player of the Year, while JuJu Smith Schuster the professional Polynesian Player of the Year, and both were proud to accept the award and represent their proud ancestry.

It’s also a culture that current Tennessee Titans and Polynesian Hall of Fame member Marcus Mariota tries to help instill in the young players getting the honor to play in this week’s Polynesian Bowl.

“It’s always nice to come back and hopefully share a little bit about what I’ve done and hopefully share a little advice with them,” Mariota said. “It’s more important for these kids playing the game to understand the gravity of what they are playing for. It’s a big responsibility to play in this game, to represent Polynesia. They’ve had a week to learn and digest and be a part of this culture. Wherever they may go, I hope they’ll take a little bit of that with them.”

For the past week, Taulia and his teammates on team Mauka, as well as team Makai all got the privilege to enrich themselves in and learn more about the culture that has given them so much to be proud of.

After competing in the Polynesian bowl on Saturday, Jan. 19, Taulia will turn his attention to the University of Alabama where he will look to make noise quickly.

At the high school level, Taulia totaled 14,207 yards and 135 touchdowns in his career just passing the ball, which was higher than Alabama Mr. Football winner and Auburn commit Bo Nix’s combined passing and rushing yards, who in four years as a starter totaled 12,497 yards of total offense.

Taulia, a four star and the seventh overall quarterback in the country, isn’t as highly rated a recruit as Nix, a four star and the second overall quarterback in the country, but those numbers alone have to get the Alabama fan base excited, as he also posted better numbers at the high school level than his older brother and Heisman runner up.

“I’m ready to go right now,” Taulia said. “Ready to get training and stuff like that and be a part of the brother hood and family over there. It’s going to be exciting and I can’t wait.”