ESPN sportscaster spotted future greatness in Tua

Published 1:33 pm Tuesday, November 13, 2018

ESPN Sportscaster Holly Rowe saw potential greatness in Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa a few years ago.

Rowe spoke Monday night at the Selma Quarterback Club at the Carl C. Morgan Convention Center.

One of the subjects Rowe discussed was Tua, the Crimson Tide’s star sophomore quarterback and current favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.  For the last month, the Hawaiian native has played through a nagging knee injury.

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While covering the Hawaii Bowl, Rowe said she read about this quarterback wanting to become “the next Marcus Mariota.” Mariota became the first Hawaiian to win the Heisman in 2014 and attended St. Louis School in Hawaii.

Before Mariota signed with Oregon, he served as Tua’s mentor. Mariota, now the Tennessee Titans’ starter, gave Tua a pair of his football cleats.

“I set up an interview with Tua’s parents and brother with hopes for the future,” Rowe said. “Tua told me he was happy to follow in Mariota’s footsteps and had a pair of his cleats. One day he couldn’t find the shoes. His brother wore them to practice one day and Tua was pissed.”

Rowe’s intuition paid off in last year’s national championship game between Alabama and Georgia at Atlanta’s Mercedes Stadium.  She was the sideline reporter for ESPN Radio’s coverage.

“After halftime, I saw Tua warming up on the sidelines,” Rowe said. “I said, ‘we need to be ready. Alabama may be making a change at quarterback, we were on the story and they made the change. We had a lead on the story. We did our homework.”

We all know what happened. Tua threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Devonta Smith that gave the Crimson Tide a 26-23 overtime victory for college football’s biggest prize. Suddenly, Tua became an instant legend.

I applaud Rowe for having the vision to follow her instincts. If Alabama goes on to win the national title and Tua lands the Heisman, Rowe can look proudly on this.