Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa won more than a championship game Monday when coach Nick Saban decided at halftime to use the freshman from Hawaii to replace quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Tagovailoa’s choice to thank Jesus during a post-game interview won a lot of hearts, too, including a shoutout Monday from evangelist Franklin Graham.
“Tua Tagovailoa used his moment in the spotlight to testify to the glory of God...,” Graham said in a Facebook post shared 10,000 times in its first hour. “It’s great to see a young athlete like this use his platform to acknowledge what God has done in his life, in front of millions of people. That’s a win-win.”
Tagovailoa’s comments came after a reporter asked what went through his mind when Saban put him on the field during a national championship game. Tagovailoa acknowledged many would expect him to first thank his parents.
“But, excuse me, first and foremost, I’d just like to thank my Lord and savior Jesus Christ,” Tagovailoa said, tapping his heart with one hand. “With him all things are possible, and that’s what happened tonight.”
Graham’s post comes at a time when some American athletes – both professional and college level – have stirred controversy by using the National Anthem as a chance to protest the killing of African-Americans by law enforcement officers.
Commenters on Graham’s Facebook page mentioned those protests. Others likened Tagovailoa to former NFL star Tim Tebow, who was criticized by some for being open about his beliefs.
“So many (athletes) are a shame, not respecting our flag,” posted Pat and Gary Peterson on Facebook.
“What a role model for others. Just like Tim Tebow, not afraid to speak and show their faith,” wrote Susie Haddad.
“It was my favorite part of the game!” posted Pamela Flory Louvier on Facebook.