When Nick Saban shockingly inserted freshman backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa during halftime of last year’s national championship game, many were unsure if Alabama’s risky move would pay off.
Terrell Owens, however, was perhaps as confident as anybody else.
In an ESPN profile of Tagovailoa published Wednesday, the NFL Hall of Fame receiver revealed that he called the Crimson Tide’s comeback win against Georgia once he discovered Tagovailoa was entering the game. Owens was on the sidelines for the game, and the ESPN detailed how he reacted despite Alabama being down 13-0 at halftime:
At the national championship game, Owens said he didn’t panic when the Tide fell behind at halftime. When Tagovailoa trotted on the field, Owens turned to former Clemson star Wayne Gallman and said, “Game over.”
“What?” Gallman asked.
“Trust me,” Owens said. “This guy is the real deal.”
Why was Owens so confident? He had visited Tuscaloosa to run routes with Crimson Tide receivers the summer before the 2017 season, and Tagovailoa ended up throwing to them in their session. According to the report, the Alabama players convinced Owens to stick around for the then-freshman, who wowed the 15-year NFL receiver.
“When you talk about precision, when you talk about timing, he was on point,” said Owens, who noted that Tagovailoa misfired on a throw only once during the 90-minute session. “You talk about the ‘it’ factor, this guy has ‘it’ and then some. … I’ve seen pro guys not hit routes like that.”
That’s some pretty high praise from a Hall of Fame receiver, and it appears that Owens was spot-on with his original assessment of Tagovailoa.