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Titans QB Marcus Mariota proud of Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa

Marcus Mariota, Tua Tagovailoa

When Tua Tagovailoa stepped in for the Alabama Crimson Tide and led them to a dramatic victory in the National Championship game on Monday night, Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota proudly soaked it all in.

With a whole week to prepare for the second playoff game of his brief NFL career, Mariota stayed up late to watch his protégé emerge onto the college football landscape. As ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe detailed in his latest piece, Mariota first took the fellow Hawaiian under his wing in fourth grade. They’ve remained friends since, with Mariota offering Tagovailoa guidance as he’s made the leap from their shared Saint Louis High School to the collegiate level.

Drawing comparisons to the likes of Russell Wilson and Steve Young, Tagovailoa took the reins of Alabama’s offense for the second half against the Georgia Bulldogs, trailing 13-0. He made a few mistakes here and there, but he more than made up for them with clutch runs and throws to keep the Crimson Tide within striking distance, and ultimately, to give them the victory.

After the game, Mariota praised the young quarterback for his ascendance to this moment. From Wolfe:

“Tua is a stud. He’s the next guy coming up. Proud of him,” Mariota said. “From where that kid’s come, how he’s grown and how he handled the situation last night. He’s very special. Hopefully he can continue his success. I’m sure you guys saw the interview after the game. That’s who he is.”

Tagovailoa has acknowledged Mariota’s influence in the past, but the Titans signal-caller refused to take any credit for Tua’s big night:

“He’s done it all himself,” he said. “Where he gets his humility is from his family. How he carries himself is from where we grew up. I hope he uses this as motivation to continue to get better and see how far he can take it.”

We’ll see if Mariota can follow Tagovailoa’s heroics by leading Tennessee to what would be a huge upset over the New England Patriots on Saturday night.