Two brothers with two different personalities, yet alike in so many ways.
Taulia Tagovailoa, the star Maryland quarterback, is reserved, the kind of player who would rather not talk about his own exploits on the field. Tua Tagovailoa, the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, is more outgoing, having blossomed into a college star and first-round NFL draft pick after winning a national championship at Alabama.
They both rarely use social media, especially during football season. (Taulia said he didn’t know Southern California and UCLA were joining the Big Ten Conference in 2024 until a month after the announcement.) They are both close to their family, who they lean on for guidance and support while playing the most scrutinized position in American sports.
This weekend, in a family reunion like no other, they’ll share the spotlight about 31 miles apart.
Taulia will lead the Terps against SMU on Saturday night at Maryland Stadium in College Park, while his older brother Tua and the Dolphins will face the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Sunday afternoon.
“I think my whole family is going to be here too,” said Taulia, a redshirt junior. “It will be exciting.”
The brothers were briefly teammates at Alabama, where Tua became one of the most popular and successful players in the country. After throwing the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime to beat Georgia in the 2017 national championship game as a true freshman, he finished second in Heisman Trophy voting in 2018 under the direction of then-Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Mike Locksley. After Locksley became head coach at Maryland in 2019, Tua led Alabama to an 8-1 record before suffering a dislocated hip and declaring for the NFL draft.
Less than a month after Tua was picked No. 5 overall by the Dolphins, Taulia announced he was transferring to joining Locksley and the Terps. Two years later, the brothers will play in the same state, something they haven’t done since their childhood days in Ewa Beach, Hawaii.
Their mother, Diane, said the Samoan family — which includes her husband, Galu, a former youth football coach, and daughters Taylor and Taysia — is overjoyed to see the brothers compete in such close proximity. She said at least 25 family members from Alabama, Hawaii, Utah and Virginia will be in the stands on Saturday and Sunday.
“We are living a dream,” she said. “We get to watch one son play at a Division I college on Saturday, and then watch another son play in the NFL on Sunday.”
Taulia said he plans to attend the Ravens’ home opener. Tua, on the other hand, told Miami reporters Wednesday that he is unsure if he will be in College Park on Saturday night due to the Dolphins’ schedule.
“This is our first road game against a really good team, and we have a chance to go out there and do something special,” Tua said.
Since becoming starters, Tua and Taulia have been under a microscope, analyzed for every little thing they do right and wrong.
Despite his track record, many have questioned whether Tua has the arm strength and durability to be the franchise quarterback for a Miami team that features talented receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Much like Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and his ongoing contract negotiations, Tua has been a routine talking point for pundits, with Kurt Warner, Keyshawn Johnson and Sean Payton among those weighing in this week alone.
“I think it comes with the territory,” Dolphins quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “I think it’s part of playing the quarterback position. You’re always going to be looked at. I think the year that Tua is in, everybody says ‘Oh, this is the important one.’ But I couldn’t be more happy and excited about what Tua has been doing. The growth process that he’s had, the information that he’s digesting, learning a new offense again. He’s doing a really good job in it.”
When it comes to Taulia, Locksley has said many times that he is one of the most underrated players in college football. Last season, Taulia set single-season program records in passing yards (3,860), completions (454) and completion rate (69.2%) while leading Maryland to its first bowl victory since 2010. After Taulia totaled 391 passing yards and accounted for five touchdowns in a 56-21 win against Charlotte last week, he moved up to third in Maryland history in career passing touchdowns with 37.
“When you see the top quarterbacks [ranked] going into the season, you rarely see Taulia Tagovailoa,” Locksley said. “He has [brought] tremendous value to our program.”
For Taulia and Tua, their family keeps them grounded. Growing up in Hawaii, they learned to separate football and family, as Diane never wanted them to bring whatever they did on the football field back to the house.
“If the coaches get 100% of your attention, then your mom, dad, sisters and [grandparents] should get 100% when you are home,” she said.
Taulia and Tua have maintained a strong connection with their family and each other despite their hectic schedules. Whether it’s a text message or phone call, those conversations have kept them humble and helped them understand there’s more to life than football.
“That keeps [Tua] motivated,” Taulia said. “That’s something I try to do, too — just give my family my whole attention.”
Locksley said both players have handled the spotlight well, even though Taulia would rather stay away from it. Taulia admires how Tua has carried himself, constantly smiling and remaining upbeat. Taulia, on the other hand, is his own worst critic and can sometimes let mistakes affect his performance.
“Tua is able to mask that a little better than Taulia,” Diane said. “You know exactly what Taulia is feeling.”
In last week’s win over Charlotte, Taulia might have taken a page out of his brother’s textbook. After throwing an interception in the second quarter, Tagovailoa kept smiling as if the turnover didn’t bother him.
“He kept a smile on his face, and yeah, we were up by some points, but he’s typically really hard on himself,” Locksley said.
For Diane, this weekend will be a testament to the journey Tua and Taulia have been on since they were little.
“We are able to witness both boys do something they love so passionately,” she said. “We are truly blessed.”
Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports 1
Radio: 105.7 FM
Line: Maryland by 4
Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV: Chs. 13, 9
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM
Line: Ravens by 3 1