HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With five national championships to his name, including the one he won over Clemson in January's NCAA title game, you'll forgive Saint Louis junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for being slightly starstruck the first time he exchanged words with Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
"Going on the phone with Coach Saban is something really big," Tagovailoa told Hawaii News Now in an interview on Thursday following a speed and quickness workout in Kaka'ako. "You look at him as a superstar, you see him in movies. It's just something really great."
Memorable as it must have been to speak to the coaching legend, the reason for the phone call may have been even more so; Saban, on behalf of the defending national champions, wanted to personally extend an Alabama scholarship offer to Tagovailoa.
"To be offered by them, just like any other offer, is a blessing," Tagovailoa said.
For Tagovailoa, choice of the word "blessing" is deliberate; he's a devout Christian who values little, if anything at all, above his faith, a fact he says has made his conversations with Saban more meaningful.
"He preaches out there at Alabama 'God before anything,' and that's something you would want to look at in a school, at least I do personally," said Tagovailoa. "He puts God first in the program, and everything else just falls into place from there."
The way Tagovailoa tells it, the offer from Alabama fell into place following his performance with more than a dozen other Hawaii football players at a 7-on-7 tournament in Las Vegas last weekend. Just making contact with the quarterback, however, had to be done creatively, since there are recruiting rules in place this time of year that prohibit college coaches from initiating contact with recruits.
For Alabama outside linebackers coach Tosh Lupoi, the first Crimson Tide coach to show interest in Tagovailoa, the intermediary was new Moanalua High School head coach Savai'i Eselu, who knew Lupoi from their days together at Cal.
"He said to give Coach Tosh a call, so I called him, not knowing that I had an offer," Tagovailoa said. "They don't really offer quarterbacks, as far as Hawaii. He was telling me how blessed and fortunate I am to have been brought up in their conference room."
Alabama is hardly the first conference room or coaches meeting in which Tagovailoa's name has been mentioned; he's already received scholarship offers from at least 13 other schools, including Hawaii. He told Hawaii News Now on Thursday he currently lists, in no particular order, Washington, USC, UCLA, Ole Miss and Alabama as his top five schools.
"I just want to surround myself with people who want to compete, and I mean… I wouldn't mind going to Alabama," said Tagovailoa.