Tua Tagovailoa feels ‘100 percent,’ could play as rookie

5:13 PM ET

  • Alex ScarboroughESPN Staff Writer

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    • Covers the SEC.
    • Joined ESPN in 2012.
    • Graduate of Auburn University.

Things are steadily returning to normal for former Alabama quarterback and projected top-10 draft pick Tua Tagovailoa, who went through four months of rehab to repair a broken hip and recently returned to the field to run through drills and throw a football again.

“I’d say I’m 100 percent right now,” Tagovailoa said during an interview on SportsCenter. “I’m just ready to go.”

Without giving a specific recovery timeline, Tagovailoa didn’t rule out the idea of playing as a rookie — something that runs contrary to the popular notion that he’d bide his time recovering behind a veteran quarterback his first year in the league.

“I feel like if I had to go out there and perform the same way I did my sophomore year and my junior year, being 100 percent healthy, I feel like I’d be able to go out there and do that,” he said.

Tagovailoa recently released on his social media page several clips of him practicing, giving a first glimpse at the quarterback who was a Heisman Trophy finalist as a sophomore and threw for 33 touchdowns and only three interceptions as a junior before suffering a season-ending injury on Nov. 16 against Mississippi State. He said his body has responded well to those workouts and the soreness he’s felt afterward has been “little-to-none.”

“It’s been really good,” he said of getting back on the practice field. “I’ve been really excited to actually just be able to go and throw the ball, to spin it around. It’s been a long process — four months waiting, going through all the physicals, going through rehab. And just being able to go out there and throw the ball, spin it, it’s been good.”

Because of the restrictions due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Tagovailoa has been unable to meet with prospective NFL teams face-to-face. But virtual meetings, he said, have been a “daily thing.”

“It hasn’t been a lot of questions as far as how I’m going about doing rehab, or how I’m doing with my health,” he said. “It’s more so just been football talk. And I’ve really appreciated it. It’s been good.”

Tagovailoa declined to say which teams he’s met with. The interest is nice, he said, “but you just never know where the cards can turn out.”

There’s been speculation that teams might trade up in the draft to take him. Tagovailoa’s message to those teams was: “If I’m your guy, I’m your guy.”

In his latest mock draft, ESPN’s Todd McShay projected Tagovailoa being taken with the fifth pick by the Miami Dolphins, making him the second quarterback to come off the board behind former LSU Tiger and projected top overall pick Joe Burrow.

Tagovailoa said he and Alabama coach Nick Saban have spoken frequently throughout the recovery process, and that Saban has given him advice as he navigates life as a professional.

“At first … you think of it as, ‘Dang, I’m going to the principal’s office,'” Tagovailoa said of his conversations with his former coach. “But now, just the relationship we’ve created over time, it’s easy. Just be yourself in those meetings, talk to him, give your input and he’ll give you the same. It’s just been really good. He’s a great person that I have to rely on.”

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