Leading up to his pending NFL Draft decision, much of the buzz around the Alabama football program was that Tua Tagovailoa planned to return to Tuscaloosa for his senior season. During the broadcast of Alabama’s Citrus Bowl win over Michigan, even ESPN analysts Tom Luginbill and Greg McElroy both predicted Tagovailoa would return for one final season with the Tide.

A big reason why Tagovailoa was even considering a return over passing on the opportunity to potentially make millions in the NFL was the QB’s relationship with Nick Saban. As he explained during a recent interview with the NFL Network, the fiery Saban the world sees on television is only a small piece of the coach’s personality.

“I think people get this outlook on Coach Saban, you know, as someone who’s always hard. Someone who’s strict, who’s mean. That’s on the field, that’s when the switch is on. The switch comes off literally right off the field,” Tagovailoa shared during his appearance on NFL Network. “I mean, as much as he yelled at you throughout practice, you know, once you’re off the field, this man will joke with you like so much, like, as if he didn’t just yell at you two minutes ago.

“He is a really, really personable person, you know, off the field. For his staff, his players, he loves them. I mean, you know, he really admires them, he really loves them, he just wants the best for everyone in the organization.”

According to the former Alabama signal-caller, his relationship with Saban made his decision to turn pro early much more difficult.

“No doubt it made it difficult, it was hard,” Tua noted.

How close was Tagovailoa to returning for one more season? He held up two of his fingers close together to indicate how close the decision was but noted that after meeting with his parents and with Coach Saban, he had to make the best decision for himself moving forward.

“I was really close, you know, but sitting down with my parents, you know, my mom and dad getting guidance, seeing where their heart was with, with all of this, that’s kind of what I went off, you know, as far as making my decision to leave and enter the draft,” Tagovailoa shared. “The thing that stuck with me with Coach Saban (told me), ‘When you make a decision, don’t make an emotional one. If me and you have this thing, we’re always going to have it. Don’t feel like you need to pressure yourself into staying because the relationship that we have and if you go we won’t have it. That’s not what it is.’

“He said make a business decision, you know, what’s going to be best for you and your family, don’t make any emotional decision, so that’s what we did.”

It’s not often you will hear about a college coach telling one of his players to make a “business decision” but very few college players stand to gain more from leaving early for the NFL than Tua. While questions will linger over his status until he can prove he’s healthy enough to hit the field, Tagovailoa is likely going to be rewarded with millions of dollars following two seasons of outstanding performances in Tuscaloosa.