Tagovailoa named Camp Player of Year
The events of Saturday’s SEC football championship followed an eerily similar script to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
In January, Tua Tagovailoa replaced Jalen Hurts to lead a big second-half Alabama comeback over Georgia for the national title. On Saturday, Hurts returned the favor as the Crimson Tide again came from behind to beat Georgia for the SEC title, locking up the top seed in this year’s playoff.
“That’s a movie, right there,” Tagovailoa said Thursday by phone, a few hours before being named the Walter Camp Player of the Year at college football’s
awards show in Atlanta.
“You couldn’t tell me I was going into second half of national championship game and we were going to win the game, only for me to leave this year and Jalen would bring us back in the fourth quarter. I mean, really. That’s a movie.”
The next plot twist is anyone’s guess.
Alabama is hopeful Tagovailoa can recover from ankle surgery earlier this week in time for a semifinal game with Oklahoma on Dec. 29. If not, there’s a capable contingency plan in Hurts.
Tagovailoa’s surgery to repair a high ankle sprain is considered minor, though three weeks is a quick turnaround. He tooled around Atlanta on a knee scooter and received treatment from team trainers in his hotel room in the hours before the ESPN broadcast.
“In my mind, I’ll be ready to play,” Tagovailoa said. “I’m working on getting better every day with therapy in treatment. We have to use up every second and every minute we can to get this
Some have wondered whether the injury cost Tagovailoa his shot at becoming the first Alabama quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy. Tagovailoa will be in New York on Saturday for the presentation along with fellow finalists Kyler Murray of Oklahoma and Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State.
It could become one of the closest votes in history. Tagovailoa and Murray are considered co-favorites, both more than worthy.
The New Haven-based Walter Camp Award, also for the national player of the year, has mirrored the Heisman winner each of the past five years. Tagovailoa was considered the favorite leading into Saturday. But voters, whose ballots were due Monday evening, may have been swayed after Tagovailoa played through an earlier injury Saturday before leaving for good in the fourth quarter.
Earlier Thursday, Murray was named the Associated Press player of the year. Tagovailoa was appreciative of the Walter Camp Award.
“It means a lot,” Tagovailoa said. “Just to be nominated for any award is awesome. To win one, to have something like this under my belt now, I’m grateful. It’s a testament to the people surrounding me, starting with my teammates and coaches.”
At Alabama, Tagovailoa made the most of sporadic duty as a freshman last fall until answering the call from coach Nick Saban on the game’s biggest stage. With the Crimson Tide offense suffering in the national championship game, Saban benched starter Jalen Hurts at halftime in favor of Tagovailoa.
Down 13-0 to Georgia, Tagovailoa helped force overtime, where, on 2ndand-26, he threw the gamewinning 41-yard touchdown pass to capture another national title for Alabama.
He beat out Hurts for the starting job to start the season, and has been magnificent. He’s completed 67 percent of passes for 3,353 yards, 37 touchdowns and four interceptions for the No. 1 Crimson Tide. He’s also run for 892 yards and 11 touchdowns.
It could turn out to be quite the calendar year for Tagovailoa. He won a national championship as a true freshman and has the Crimson Tide poised to win another to go with his Walter Camp Award and, possibly, the Heisman.
“Things have been moving quickly, but I never really took the time to soak it in and enjoy,” Tagovailoa said. “I don’t think it’s something I can enjoy until once the season’s over.”
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was named the Walter Camp Player of the Year on Thursday.