One of the biggest motivating factors behind Taulia Tagovailoa’s decision to transfer from Alabama to Maryland two years ago was to build his own legacy, make his own name and step out of the shadow of his famous older brother and Crimson Tide legend Tua Tagovailoa.
But that doesn’t mean Taulia doesn’t want to talk about his brother. Because right now, with the success that Tua is having with the Miami Dolphins, Taulia believes it only shows that he too can thrive in the NFL.
“He's my older brother, and he's in the league,” Taulia told PFF on Wednesday. “So it's more of a thing where I feel like if he's doing good, I know that I can do it too. But I gotta take care of my stuff in college first.”
Taulia says he hasn’t made a decision about his future yet. He’s a redshirt junior, so he could declare for the 2023 NFL Draft after the season, or he could elect to return to school to continue to build his draft stock.
“Obviously, my biggest dream ever since I played football is to make it to the NFL,” Tagovailoa said. “With my brother, it’s motivation seeing him go out there and playing in the NFL, starting in the NFL and do really good, so it’s motivation for me and that's something that I strive to be like.”
So far, it’s been a good year to be playing quarterback with the last name Tagovailoa.
Tua Tagovailoa is currently PFF’s top-graded NFL passer and has led the Dolphins to a 6-1 record as a starter. Miami lost two games Tagovailoa missed due to a concussion. He ranks first among 39 qualified NFL quarterbacks in clean-pocket passing grade, second in passing grade on deep and intermediate passes, third in adjusted completion percentage and ninth in play-action passing grade. He currently has the fifth-best odds, via BetMGM, to win NFL MVP and earned second-team honors on PFF's midseason All-Pro team.
“It's been a blessing, seeing where they came from, and see where they are now,” Taulia said of Tua and the Dolphins’ performance this season. “He's doing really good and the biggest thing, like I always say, is just seeing him happy, seeing him have fun. Just from watching it on TV and me being there personally, you can tell it's a different vibe in Miami and stuff like that. So it's also very motivating for me. I get to watch him every Sunday. And obviously, I learn things from just watching. Also all the other quarterbacks in the league, too. … Every time I see it on Sunday, I'm ready to get back to work on Monday and go through our week.”
Taulia is putting up his own gaudy numbers at Maryland. With an 87.5 mark, the younger Tagovailoa is the Big Ten’s second-highest-graded passer this season and ranks 13th among 153 qualified FBS signal-callers.
He ranks second in PFF passing grade when blitzed, sixth in passing grade while under pressure, eighth when blitzed and 16th on intermediate passes. And if you removed his Week 10 performance, when he struggled due to some rainy and windy inclement weather conditions and earned his lowest PFF grade since 2020, he ranks even higher.
Over the past two seasons, he’s ninth among 148 qualified FBS quarterbacks with a 90.6 passing grade.
Tagovailoa is a Terrapin, but he’s taken notice of other former Alabama quarterbacks beyond his brother shining in the NFL in recent years. The Philadelphia Eagles‘ Jalen Hurts, who started his career at Alabama before transferring to Oklahoma, is PFF’s second-highest-graded passer this season. Taulia shared a quarterback room with his brother and the New England Patriots‘ Mac Jones, who has struggled this season but was PFF’s highest-graded rookie passer in 2021, while with the Crimson Tide in 2019.
“I'm just blessed that I got to have the opportunity to be in the same room with them,” Tagovailoa said. “Now, I've seen them continue to do their thing, they’re the same person still. Yeah, it's just motivation for me to do the same. Now seeing them do their thing, be very successful in the NFL, all those things play into motivation for me.”
At 6-3, Maryland has a chance to win its most games since 2010, when the team finished 9-3. But the Terps have a tough schedule ahead with No. 14 Penn State on Saturday, No. 2 Ohio State coming to Maryland on Nov. 19 and another home game against Rutgers to close out the season.
“My biggest goals for the season is just to win out,” Tagovailoa said. “We got three more games in the regular season and a bowl game, and my biggest thing, what better way to go out than winning all four games?”
Maryland is a 10-point underdog at Penn State on Saturday. Tagovailoa has a chance to right the ship after a tough showing against Wisconsin against a premier Big Ten rival.