NASHVILLE – Like a lot of college football fans, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was watching the Alabama-Mississippi State game over the weekend when quarterback Tua Tagovailoa went down.
"It was tough to watch," Mariota said on Monday. "I am sitting there watching, and I was like, 'C'mon, man, get up. Please get up.' When I saw him get carted off, you just start praying and hoping he is OK. I felt for him."
Unfortunately for Tagovailoa, he suffered a serious hip injury.
Alabama's star quarterback had surgery on his dislocated right hip today in Houston.
Mariota and Tagovailoa went to the same high school in Honolulu – Saint Louis High. Mariota said he remembers watching Tagovailoa when he was just eight or nine years old, and he thought he was a special talent then. The two have remained in touch over the years.
Mariota said he sent Tagovailoa a text over the weekend to wish him the best and let him know he was thinking about him.
"I've known him since he was a little kid," Mariota said. "Our relationship is where I try to be there for him as somebody who has gone through some of the things he is going through.
"I know he is getting surgery today and I hope everything goes well and he can start that rehab process and that recovery process."
Team surgeon Dr. Lyle Cain said the medical team at Alabama "consulted with multiple orthopedic experts across the country, who specialize in hip injuries and surgeries" before deciding to the best location for Tagovailoa to have surgery. He reiterated that they expect Tagovailoa to make a full recovery.
"I am praying for him and his family," Mariota said of Tagovailoa, "and anything we can do to help and show him support we are more than willing to do. I hope this is just a stepping stone for him, and something he can grow from. He is a tough kid, and I really think he'll bounce back from this."
Tagovailoa, a potential top pick in April's NFL draft, was injured while being dragged down by two defenders late in the first half of Saturday's 38-7 win over Mississippi State.
Mariota said he's not surprised that Tagovailoa, who had been dealing with an ankle injury in recent weeks, wanted to start, and remain in the game leading up to the injury.
"The competitiveness, the obligation that he probably feels to his team and his university, all those things play into it – and I think for all of us, if you feel good enough to go out there and play you are going to give it your all and that is what he did," Mariota said Tagovailoa. "He was doing everything he could to help his team win and unfortunately he got hurt and I hate that for him."