Tua Tagovailoa finds happiness in finally being able to be himself

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has experienced significant growth in the past two years, thanks in large part to being given the freedom to be himself. Tagovailoa recently spoke to NBC’s Michael Smith about this transformation, which took place when Mike McDaniel became the team’s coach in 2022.

“Professionally, I would describe where I’m at right now as fun and happy,” Tua explained. “It’s fun because I can truly be myself, and my teammates can be themselves as well. We can have open, respectful dialogue without the pressure of conforming to a specific leadership style or saying certain things. And it makes us happy. When you’re having fun, happiness follows. It’s a testament to everyone involved. We all have fun and bring joy to each other when we work hard and things go as planned.”

Tua specifically credited Mike McDaniel for the change in his attitude.

“I think it’s connected to the arrival of Mike McDaniel and the freedom he has brought to the organization. He encourages us to express ourselves, to joke around, and to not be afraid to be ourselves. But when it’s time to work, we know it’s time to focus. There’s a balance between having fun and being serious, and it’s starting to align with who I am as a person, both on and off the field.”

It’s no surprise that McDaniel, who is known for his authenticity, would promote a similar mindset among the team.

“I don’t believe you should have to be a different person at work than you are at home,” Tua expressed. “Allowing me to be myself all the time is fantastic. I don’t have to overthink or pretend to be someone I’m not. I can just be myself.”

Tua spent too much time in previous years trying to please his coaches and be what they wanted him to be, instead of embracing his true self.

“Throughout my football journey, it was always about saying ‘Yes, sir’ and ‘No, sir.’ Or if there was any disagreement, it was about saying ‘Coach me, coach.’ I was taught to respect my elders and follow their instructions,” Tua recalled. “But sometimes, I knew deep down that certain approaches wouldn’t work with certain individuals. So I struggled with finding a way to get my point across respectfully and effectively.”

“For me, it was almost like I was constantly trying to please others and be a ‘yes’ man,” Tua admitted. “When Mike came here and allowed me to be myself, I finally felt comfortable enough to be myself. I used to be too nervous to even laugh at his jokes in team meetings because I just wanted everything to be perfect. I was always tense. But now, I can just be myself.”

It’s evident that Tua was not thriving in an environment that expected him to be someone he’s not, especially when there was speculation about replacing him. In 2021, before the trade deadline, it was Deshaun Watson. Then, it was Tom Brady and Sean Payton. But once McDaniel arrived, he embraced Tua and encouraged him to embrace his true self.

Now, Tua is the best version of himself that we have ever seen.


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