- Jan. 6, 2020Updated 12:43 p.m. ET
Tua Tagovailoa, the celebrated Alabama quarterback whose season ended with an injury in November, said on Monday that he would enter the N.F.L. draft and skip a final college campaign.
Tagovailoa, who entered the 2019 season as a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy, said at a news conference in Tuscaloosa, Ala., that he had reached his decision after “lots of prayers, thoughts and guidance.”
Tagovailoa made his announcement less than two months after he played against Mississippi State and dislocated his right hip, which led to surgery two days later. Although a team doctor said at the time that Tagovailoa’s prognosis was “excellent,” his season ended and his prospects for being a top selection in the N.F.L. draft were unclear.
In an early December interview with The Tuscaloosa News, he said he was “not too sure” what he would do and signaled that financial considerations — and the large money gap between a player chosen early in the first round and somewhere in the second — were crucial.
“There is a risk and a reward if I stay and a risk and a reward if I go,” Tagovailoa said then. “The risk if I stay is obviously, ‘Do I get hurt again?’ The reward is that I could come back and have another good year like my sophomore year and elevate myself back to the very top of the draft.”
But on Monday, he said he no one factor had, in the final analysis, been pivotal.
“This is a decision that I’m going to have to live with,” Tagovailoa said. “I made it, and I’m good with it.”
Tagovailoa, who approached the lectern in Tuscaloosa without the aid of the crutches he used just last week, will be under pressure in the coming months to show N.F.L. teams how he has recovered. Even before the injury that ended this season, Tagovailoa’s medical chart was thick: In October, he suffered a high ankle sprain and underwent surgery on his right ankle. He had the same procedure on his other ankle in 2018.
Tagovailoa’s career at Alabama, including a freshman season in which he entered the national championship game at halftime and engineered a stirring and improbable comeback for the Crimson Tide, was illustrious. In his three seasons, Tagovailoa threw for 87 touchdowns and 7,442 yards and completed more than 69 percent of his passes. In the 2018 season, his most recent full campaign, Tagovailoa was the nation’s most efficient passer and led the Southeastern Conference in passing touchdowns and passing yardage.
And as if his performance in the title game for the 2017 season was not enough for a place in Alabama lore, he was recently elected a permanent team captain, and his handprint and footprint will be added at the base of Denny Chimes, the bell tower that stands 115 feet over the heart of the campus in Tuscaloosa.
Tagovailoa’s announcement ended arguably the greatest off-season suspense for Alabama after an 11-2 campaign that would have been exceptional for most any other university but still left fans — and the program’s players and coaches — frustrated. Alabama’s only losses were to Louisiana State, which will play for a national championship next Monday night, and archrival Auburn.
It also further settled the contours of the elite quarterback class for this year’s draft, which will begin on April 23. Joe Burrow, the Louisiana State signal caller who won the Heisman Trophy, could be the top choice over all for the Cincinnati Bengals. Justin Herbert, whose four seasons at Oregon ended with a Rose Bowl victory, is also seen as a potential first-round selection, and Jalen Hurts, who preceded Tagovailoa as Alabama’s starter before transferring to Oklahoma, will be available.