With wide-open and loving arms, a proud Ewa Beach community welcomed home Tua Tagovailoa on Saturday with a parade and celebration at the Ewa Beach Boys and Girls Club near Campbell High School.
Before he starred for Saint Louis and then won the national championship with Alabama, Tua Tagovailoa began to learn his quarterback craft with the Ewa Beach Sabers.
Many in the large gathering wore Alabama colors. Others wore the Ewa Beach Sabers’ white, orange and black.
One fan was only seven weeks old — Zaylee Shackelford — and wearing Alabama colors while napping in a stroller.
There was hula dancing and traditional Samoan dancing, including an appearance by Tagovailoa himself, and music from entertainers.
Tagovailoa was accompanied by his dad, Galu Tagovailoa, and his cousin, Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, who is a defensive tackle for Notre Dame. In addition, three Crimson Tide players were there, including starting running back Najee Harris.
The event was big enough for the sports anchor of a television station in Birmingham, Ala., to make the trip to do an on-camera story.
“I just mixed mahalo and aloha in the same word on TV,” said Simone Eli of CBS 42 in Birmingham. “I said something like alaha.”
No matter. The people in Alabama probably won’t be the wiser, and when she returns to Hawaii someday, she’ll learn to get it right.
“There’s no doubt I will be back,” she added. “This has been the most fun experience, this day alone, in my entire life — outside of my wedding.”
Eli covers SEC football, especially Alabama and Auburn, in all sports, adding that football is the biggest priority.
“I remember it (when Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban yelled at Tua for a mistake right before his 41-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith for January’s 26-23 national championship victory over Georgia) vividly,” she said. “It’s funny because Tua’s the type of kid to apologize to Nick Saban and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry, it’s going to be OK.’ And the great thing about Tua is you could tell he was calm the entire time and he has said that faith and prayer kept him calm. It did not shock me one bit when he came in and did what he did.”
Eli was impressed with Ewa Beach’s display of affection for Tagovailoa.
“To see the support that he has, this family he has, from the community, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen in the entire world,” she said. “We have Alabama fans or people interested in football. But these people have a genuine love and interest in Tua Tagovailoa. To see that is amazing.”
Tagovailoa never wearied of signing autographs and posing for photos with fans.
“It’s a good time to be with my family,” Tagovailoa said, after a few hours’ worth of signing autographs. “It’s a celebration for them more than it is for me. When one wins in our family, we all win.”
Galu Tagovailoa summed up Saturday’s heartwarming experience by saying, “The big thing right now is allowing God to work his plans through (Tua). We’re here to thank the state, thank the people who made him who he is and able to come out and play with the big boys. It’s not just family and it’s not just Saint Louis.”