Long before his heroic throw gave Alabama a thrilling title win last year, long before he was a Heisman Trophy finalist for his sensational sophomore season, and long before he led the Crimson Tide back to the national championship as the man in charge this year, Tua Tagovailoa had Bay Area roots.
It all started years before the Alabama quarterback even was born.
Galu Tagovailoa, Tua's father, lived off Petaluma Hill Road in Santa Rosa while playing for a junior college that has produced multiple Division I quarterbacks. Galu had his hand in the dirt, though.
Even as a freshman in 1989, Galu was considered a leader on the Santa Rosa Junior College defense as a top lineman. He played at the school for two years, until 1991.
Galu's football career ended there but not by choice. He didn't have the chance to play at the next level like so many other Bear Cubs, even some who went to the NFL, like former second-round draft pick Koa Misi. Instead, Galu had to come back to Hawaii and help his family financially.
When asked Saturday at College Football Playoff National Championship media day, Tua made it clear his father has kept his playing days to himself. "No he hasn't. He really hasn't," he said when asked if Galu has talked to him about playing football at SRJC.
Seven years after Galu left Santa Rosa, Tua was born, and quickly, a quarterback prodigy was being developed. As early as 2 years old, Tua would go to the ocean with his father but not for your ordinary day at the beach.
"We would go to the beach to train," Galu said in an ESPN segment that also revealed he wrongfully hit Tua with a belt after he threw an interception.
In high school, Tua's rise really started in Oakland.
At The 2016 Nike Opening, a showcase for the area's top high school talent, Tagovailoa flew in from Hawaii and showcased his talent, as did future Alabama teammate Najee Harris, an Antioch High School star. Tagovailoa's arm strength and accuracy were on full display.
Tua Tagovailoa https://t.co/cGiNXrS3nu— 💥💥 Justin Hopkins 💥💥 (@JHopkinsSD) May 22, 2016
While in the Bay Area over that May weekend, Tagovailoa even visited Cal.
Because of that impressive showing in Oakland, Tagovailoa earned an invite to The Opening Finals and the Elite 11 Finals, the two most prestigious events for high school quarterbacks. He won MVP honors at both of them.
That weekend in Oakland sparked a huge next few months for Tagovailoa before his senior season at St. Louis High School in Honolulu, where he led the Crusaders to the state championship.
So, while Hawaii made Tagovailoa, the Bay Area is a close second, even if he grew up rooting against the 49ers. Those same roots are following him to Monday night's title game against Clemson at Levi's Stadium.
"There's a lot of family out here in the Bay Area," Tagovailoa said Saturday, with reports of hundreds representing him at the game.
Tagovailoa was raised on Ohana, but expect that same family to get hella loud when the left-hander tosses his first touchdown pass against the Tigers.