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The Tagovailoa Trickle Down

Tua Tagovailoa made himself into an Alabama legend in the National Championship game on January 8th. He replaced the young, yet successful, starter Jalen Hurts at half time. Jalen Hurts has only lost two games in two years, but Tagovailoa has been chasing Hurts ever since the Alabama spring game. That quarterback change has been coming for months now.

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Not only did Tagovailoa lead a comeback win, but he made a statement with his win. Yes he was only 19, but that was not the statement I’m talking about. Years or even decades from now people will realize that there was a bigger statement made, that will define this next generation of football. Let me coin this term before people start to throw around different terms to define what happened when Tua Tagovailoa won the national championship. The Tagovailoa Trickle Down.

The Tagovailoa Trickle Down is simple. I believe that Tua Tagovailoa’s win will inspire a whole new generation of Asian American and Pacific Islander football players. This new generation will see that there are players like Tua who can play a position besides linemen or defense. This topic is extremely personal to me since I am an Asian American with both my parents being immigrants from the Philippines.

As a child, I did not have any Filipino sports role models to look up to besides Manny Pacquiao. If Manny Pacquiao never existed, I probably never would’ve pursued sports. Growing up I constantly heard stereotypes about Asians only being good in school, and how they don’t belong in sports. If it wasn’t for the fact that my dad and older brother were avid basketball fans I would’ve most definitely believed those stereotypes. If I’m being completely honest, there were times as a kid that I just thought Filipinos were not built to be athletes. My reasoning behind this as a child was that Manny Pacquiao was the only Filipino athlete I knew of. So, it got me thinking that maybe I’m not supposed to play sports, and that’s just how things are. Then being the defiant child I was, I decided that it would be my dream to be the first famous Filipino American professional athlete. Obviously, that didn’t work out, but my pursuit of sports like football and basketball help me grow/mature as a human being. It also helped me realize that I love sports, and the type of environment they foster. All of these things factored into my decision to change schools and majors literally a month before my high school graduation. I decided to go to school to become a physical education teacher and football coach one day. It became my new dream to help athletes of all backgrounds, and be like the mentors I had who helped me through the toughest parts of my life.

 

Anyways back to the Tagovailoa Trickle Down. Inspiration in the form of a role model is a powerful motivator. Seeing somebody else like you accomplish something is such a big motivator as well. That’s why when I first watched football, I was drawn to watching Hines Ward and the Steelers. I knew that Hines Ward was half Korean, and for me as a child that inspired me. Actually, I initially thought he was Filipino, but when I found out he was half Korean it never changed a thing for me. I knew that Koreans were considered Asian like Filipinos and that was close enough for me. Considering I did not have many other sports role models, I took what I could. Watching Hines Ward made me want to play football. Troy Polamalu was another player I saw that made me want to play football as well. I knew Polamalu was Samoan, but at the time I felt like Samoa was similar to the Philippines because it was also a bunch of islands in the Pacific Ocean. This was my thinking as a kid, but it got me into football.

One thing I noticed early on was that there weren’t many Asian-American or even Pacific Islander quarterbacks. I noticed this as a 7-year-old just getting into football. In fact I could not think of any quarterback of that descent at that time. Quarterback is a special position. It requires both high intelligence, and physical talent that not many athletes in general have. The quarterback is also the leader of an offense, and one of the more glamorous positions. I’ve heard many racist comments in my lifetime about why Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders are not fit for such a position and should stick to blocking/tackling. I’ll leave that there, but I know comments like those have discouraged many Asian/Islander Americans I know from continuing to pursue football, or trying it. The fact that the majority of people of this descent have been regulated to either linemen or defense says a lot. Football is a team sport, but what does it say when the majority of a certain group of people are told they can only block or tackle? That’s what I was told growing up.

Years later as a 19-year-old I can only name off 3 significant players of Asian American or Pacific islander descent who have played the quarterback position. Those three are Jeremiah Masoli, Marcus Mariota, and Tua Tagovailoa. Masoli was somebody I heard of only recently, but looking back at his career his legal issues seemed to be a bigger deal than his career.

I’ve been a big fan of Marcus Mariota since his first season as a redshirt freshman in 2012. I knew he was part Samoan, but to me I still valued role models who came from backgrounds similar to my Filipino one. I’m still one of the biggest Mariota fans out there, and I believe he may have already inspired a new generation of football players. Mariota did not win a national championship though, or make as big a splash in the NFL for people to put him in the top 10 quarterback’s conversation yet. Although he has led his team to the playoffs this past year, the majority of NFL fans would still consider Jameis Winston the better quarterback. The point is, yes Mariota is very talented, but it’s easy for many people to see him as an outlier or fluke.

Tua Tagovailoa on the other hand will have people begin to think otherwise. Tagovailoa may help show that people like him are not simply outliers. Coincidentally he is from the same high school as Marcus Mariota, and I remember first hearing about him from a Sports Illustrated article from 2015. I did not expect Tagovailoa to commit to Alabama at all though. Once he did, I knew he could be a great quarterback for the tide, and that it could potentially change how many Asian/islander Americans are seen by the football community. His epic comeback win in the National Championship Game spoke volumes. I personally believe that many young football players of any decent will see his performance and believe that descent has no influence on what position someone can play in football.

 

The Tagovailoa Trickle Down will change football, and will be another step towards equality in football. It’s easy to pass judgement on people based on their looks in sports. Bigger players will look more attractive on defense or the offensive line naturally. Smaller players will probably be skill position players. Judgement based on stereotypes, and their descent though is not okay. As much as people don’t want to believe judgement like that still exists, it still does. As a former player I’m a firsthand witness to it, and I literally just graduated from high school last year. Tagovailoa’s win will hopefully open the eyes of many coaches/players, and help them realize that everyone (no matter the stereotype) deserves a chance to play the position they want.

I realize that the Asian/ Pacific Islander American population is a minority in the United States that makes up less than 15% of the population is most states. So it makes sense that there are not many famous football players of that descent. The thing is that there are still some of that descent who are professional football players but only one who currently plays quarterback in the NFL. Change is coming to football, and it’s about damn time everyone truly gets the opportunity to compete for any position they want. As an Asian American I fully intend to show my children Tua Tagovailoa’s first big win, and tell them that they can play any position they want, including quarterback.

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