SAN JOSE — Tua Tagovailoa will have his first taste of the Alabama-Clemson rivalry Monday night in the College Football Playoff National Championship at Levi’s Stadium. At media day, though, the Crimson Tide quarterback might have lit the spark needed for an old NFL rivalry that hasn’t had any fire in years.
Growing up in Ewa Beach, Oahu, Hawaii, Tagovailoa didn’t have a pro football team to root for in his home state. Since he had plenty of family in California and lived just a five-hour flight from Honolulu to San Francisco, one could think Tagovailoa grew up rooting for the 49ers with aspirations of following in fellow left-hander Steve Young’s footsteps.
“Nah, I grew up as a Cowboys fan,” Tagovailoa said Saturday at SAP Center. “Yeah, I’m a Dallas fan.”
Really? That was a pretty big rivalry back in the day.
“Exactly. I don’t like the Niners as much.”
The calm and collected signal-caller, who didn’t play against Clemson in last season’s Sugar Bowl, speaks with as much poise as he shows on the field. When the team he rooted against as a child was brought up, however, he didn’t hold back.
Since 1998, the year Tagovailoa was born, the 49ers have beaten the Cowboys in just three of the nine games they’ve played against each other. In their last matchup, the Cowboys came away with a deciding 40-10 win in Santa Clara in 2017.
Fast forward a little over 14 months later, and Tagovailoa now is trying to take home gold for the second consecutive year, this time in Alabama-Clemson IV, at the home of the 49ers.