For years, Tua Tagovailoa grew up being compared to fellow Hawaiian sensation Marcus Mariota.
Phrases like “Tua is the second-coming of Marcus Mariota,” and Tagovailoa is “the next Marcus Mariota,” circulated the web, shining a spotlight on the bevy of talent flourishing from Hawaii and the surrounding islands.
Tagovailoa watched as Mariota became the first Polynesian and the first player from Hawaii to earn college football’s most prestigious honor, the Heisman Trophy, following a stellar career at Oregon.
Mariota remembers watching Tua too. Mariota saw potential in the future Dolphins starting quarterback when Tagovailoa was just eight years old and attending weekly camps held by St. Louis High School. Both players went on to attend the same high school.
“Tua was out there throwing with the younger kids,” Mariota told AL.com. “And I think all of us high school kids were looking like ‘He’s pretty good. Who is that?’ It ended up being Tua and he actually came over and started throwing with us high schoolers and I think we all looked at each other and said he was going to be pretty good one day. I’m excited for him.
The fellow passers of Samoan heritage have long admired one another’s game, and in Week 16, Mariota and Tagovailoa could deliver an All-Hawaiian battle for the ages when the Raiders and Dolphins face off in primetime the day after Christmas. Mele Kalikimaka!
Mariota was thrust into action in the first quarter of Thursday Night Football vs. the Chargers after starter Derek Carr suffered a groin injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the game.
Following Las Vegas’ 30-27 overtime loss to Los Angeles, Raiders coach Jon Gruden said Carr’s groin injury was “pretty significant,” suggesting Mariota could be under center once again in Week 16.
"I don't believe it's a real tear," Gruden said. “But obviously if he can't finish the game, it's got to be pretty significant ... So it was tough."
Carr hasn’t missed a game in three seasons, but Mariota proved he could be the Raiders’ signal caller when called upon.
In his first appearance since Oct. 13, 2019, Mariota passed for 226 yards and a score while completing 17 of 28 attempts with an interception. The Hawaiian native also added 88 yards rushing on nine carries to lead the Raiders and one touchdown.
After a memorable night of Oregon Ducks football history between Mariota and Justin Herbert, Hawaii could get a battle between two beloved Polynesian quarterbacks that both started at the same high school. Week 16 could be wild.
The Dolphins head to Las Vegas on Dec. 26 to face the Raiders at 5:15 p.m.