It was overtime of the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship game. Down by three points, the Alabama Crimson Tide needed a field goal to extend the game or a touchdown to beat their SEC-rival Georgia Bulldogs. It was 2nd-and-26 when freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa took a shotgun snap and found DeVonta Smith running down the sideline for the game-winning score. Georgia lost, Alabama won, and Tua was introduced to the world.
Since then, the Hawaii-born legend took college football by storm and rewrote the Alabama football record book as a sophomore. Tagovailoa’s legacy will be hard to top in Tuscaloosa, but his impact on the world has even spread to the most unlikely of places: show horse competitions.
Dr. John and Bridget Cummings needed a name for their new colt. Trainer Matt Shiflet called him “a beast” whose physical talent and championship-caliber showmanship was obvious from the very beginning. The Cummings wanted a name to match a horse with that potential.
“That’s when John said we should call him Tua,” Bridget Cummings told AL.com.
This Tua is living up to the name, too.
Tua unanimously won his very first competition, the 3-year-old, 5-gaited division at the Shenandoah Classic in Lexington, Virginia. Now, the young star is headed for the World Championship Horse Show in August. Plus, Tua found his way onto the cover of The Saddle Horse Report trade magazine accompanied by the caption ‘Roll, Tua, Roll!’
“Our colt took our industry by storm. We’ve been overwhelmed with the comments and the comparisons people made of this colt to some of the older horses who have done great things. We have to show up and prove it but leading up to right now, we’ve had a great start.”
— Matt Shiflet, Tua’s trainer
The Cummings, who according to AL.com travel from their Lexington home to see Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide play in Bryant-Denny Stadium at least once a year, were actually inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium to witness Tagovailoa replace Jalen Hurts and lead the Tide to a national title. And just like the southpaw quarterback, the Cummings’ show horse is in a league of his own.
“Oh man, he has an outstanding personality,” Shiflet said. “He’s really kind but he’s really powerful. I mean, really powerful. You just don’t see colts his age… his physical ability is quite frankly like Tua (Tagovailoa). When he came out as a freshman, he looked like a senior. That’s what this colt is like. The way he rides and how much stamina he has, he never gets tired. He has a great work ethic.”
If Tua continues on this path, he will be competing at the sport’s “Super Bowl” in a few years at the 5-gaited grand championships at the Kentucky State Fair.
And if he is anything like the Heisman Trophy-candidate and Alabama quarterback, the horse-version of Tua is just getting started.
What’s crazier is that this isn’t even the first horse named after Tagovailoa. ‘Tuaandtwentysix’ is the grandsire of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew and has a shot to one day compete in horse racing’s biggest event, The Kentucky Derby.