Tua Tagovailoa will skip his senior season at the University of Alabama and enter the upcoming NFL draft, the quarterback announced Monday.
ESPN projects the former Heisman Trophy runner-up to be a top-10 pick in the draft.
Tagovailoa called the decision to leave college “difficult,” but said he made it after consulting with his parents, pastors, doctors, and coaches, ESPN reported.
He said he met with Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban five times in the last week and spoke to several NFL executives before making the decision to turn pro.
Tagovailoa missed Alabama’s last three games while recovering from hip surgery to correct an injury he sustained against Mississippi State on Nov. 16.
“It’s a unique situation,” he told ESPN. “With my hip, a lot of the guys and general managers and owners that I’ve gotten to talk to have said the same thing. They kind of look at this injury as a knee injury almost, even though it’s not, in a way that, ‘Are we going to take a chance on this guy or would he be able to possibly do a pro day before the draft?’ The biggest thing they want to see is that we can move and be back to how we were playing prior to the injury.”
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. rates Tagovailoa as his No. 3 overall pick. The Miami Dolphins are expected to show great interest in Tagovailoa with the fifth pick in the draft if he slides that far, ESPN reports.
Tagovailoa’s status as a draft prospect has been in question since he dislocated his hip against Mississippi State. He had surgery shortly thereafter and has been rehabbing with the team since, according to ESPN.
Tagovailoa said he did not consider waiting and entering the supplemental drafts, which would have allowed him extra time to recover from surgery, ESPN reports.
Saban, who spoke prior to Tagovailoa’s announcement, said Tagovailoa’s “spirit” has changed him in a positive way.
“Tua has probably had as much of an impact on the program here as any player we’ve ever had,” Saban said.
Alabama has several options, including redshirt sophomore Mac Jones, who started four games in place of Tagovailoa. Jones was 3-1 in games he started, throwing a combined 13 touchdowns and two interceptions. Incoming freshman Bryce Young, the No. 1-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2020 Class according to ESPN, arrived on campus this week as well.
Alabama recevier Jerry Jeudy and offensive lineman Jedrick Wills Jr. have also announced they’re leaving school early to join Tagovailoa in the draft.
Crimson Tide linebacker Dylan Moses and offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood announced they’re sticking around in Tuscaloosa for another year. Both are projected first-round picks in the draft, according to ESPN.