NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When Marcus Mariota accepted the Heisman Trophy during his final college season, he made a speech that was meant to inspire others in his home state.
On Monday night, another Hawaiian quarterback took center stage in Tua Tagovailoa, who came off the bench to guide Alabama to a national title game win over Georgia.
"The kid is a stud," Mariota said of Tagovailoa. "He's the next guy coming up. I'm proud of him. From where that kid has come from and how he has grown and how he handled the situation last night, it was very impressive. He is a special player and hopefully he can continue the success."
Tagovailoa, who went to the same high school (Saint Louis) as Mariota did in Honolulu, threw three touchdowns, the final one lifting the Crimson Tide a 26-23 overtime victory over Georgia.
Tagovailoa's 41-yard bomb to receiver DeVonta Smith on the second possession of overtime caused the Titans quarterback to jump off his couch in Nashville. He texted Tagovailoa, but thinks he was probably one of hundreds to do so.
"It is nice to see someone like him continue to carry the torch from back home and hopefully he can continue to take it to higher standards," Mariota said.
"He has done it all himself. Where he gets his humility is from his family, and how he carries himself is really from where we grew up. He is young, and I hope he used this as motivation to continue to get better and see how far he can take it."
Mariota and Tagovailoa have history together.
Tagovailoa attended a Saint Louis football camp when he was in the fourth grade, and in a story in The Oregonian back in 2014, he said Mariota took him under his wing at the camp.
Tagovailoa wanted to compete with kids older than him at the camp, and while other campers scoffed at the idea, Mariota helped him.
"Everybody would kind of look at me different, but the one person who stood out was Marcus," Tagovailoa told The Oregonian. "He didn't really separate me from everybody. He would teach me. While everyone else said, 'Get out of the way,' Marcus would just pull me aside – and he was one of the best quarterbacks there. Just to get taught by him and him giving me attention I didn't deserve, it was just awesome."
From there, the two quarterbacks developed a friendship.
"When I had no ride, Marcus would ask me if I wanted to grab a bite or something. He would take me to McDonald's just down the street," Tagovailoa said. "He'd talk to me about how life is, my family, school. Marcus is a really social guy and he took the time. I know I wasn't the only person he gave rides to and had conversations like that."
Mariota, as he continued preparations for Saturday's playoff game against the Patriots, said Tagovailoa has made his home state proud while doing what is dear to everyone from the islands:
"Keep Hawaii on your shoulder and represent it the best you can."
TitansOnline.com looks back at the all-time series against the New England Patriots. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)