After Setting Nearly Every Terps Passing Mark, Star Quarterback ‘Not Done Yet’
Photo by Julio Cortez/AP
“Just a kid from Hawaii.”
That’s Taulia Tagovailoa’s understated description of himself, anyway. To the University of Maryland faithful, he’s the dynamic quarterback who led the Terps to back-to-back bowl game victories, who shattered virtually every team passing record and who’s helping to boost the program back to national prominence.
He grew up on the gridiron in the Honolulu suburbs with his older brother, another familiar name for football fans: Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins quarterback. Taulia played center for Tua in grade school before becoming a signal-caller himself, and although they always tried to one-up each other, he watched his big bro’s achievements with pride.
“Samoan culture is something my parents always instilled in us growing up,” he said. “You always represent your last name. And when something good happens, it’s like we all accomplish it.”
Tua ended up at football powerhouse Alabama—and so did the rest of the Tagovailoas, who moved from their island home to stay together. That’s where the family connected with current Maryland head coach Michael Locksley, then a Crimson Tide offensive coordinator.
The younger Tagovailoa impressed recruiters in his own right, throwing for more than 3,700 yards and 35 touchdowns his senior year at Thompson High School in Alabaster, Ala.
“He’s a guy that’s effective in the pocket,” Locksley said, “but even more dangerous, to me, when things kind of go awry.”
Taulia committed to Alabama for the 2019 season, but that same year, Locksley took the helm at UMD. The bond the coach had formed with the Tagovailoas—not to mention Tua’s success under his guidance—prompted Taulia to transfer in 2020.
“The relationship we have, it’s like a family,” Taulia said.
That loyalty has helped the quarterback excel as a Terp. He was named the 2021 New Era Pinstripe Bowl MVP after powering UMD to its first bowl victory in over a decade; he then led Maryland to a Duke’s Mayo Bowl win last season. He’s set program career and single-season records for passing yards, completions, completion percentage and passing touchdowns, racked up All-Big Ten recognition and was twice named a Polynesian College Football Player of the Year finalist.
The accolades attracted major interest from other schools this offseason: Taulia revealed at Big Ten Media Days in July that one Southeastern Conference team offered him $1.5 million to transfer. He consulted with Tua—who he calls every day—and determined his UMD relationships were worth more to him as he works toward his goals.
“I want to be a starting quarterback in the NFL,” Taulia said. “I want to play in the national championship. I want to play in a conference championship.”
After making Maryland home, he believes the game plan is coming together.
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