How Tua Tagovailoa, the Dolphins QB torching the rest of the NFL, makes and spends his money

  • Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is torching the rest of the NFL this season.

  • Despite his flashy style on the gridiron, Tagovailoa leads a relatively modest life off the field.

  • Here's how the 25-year-old Hawaiian superstar makes and spends his millions.

Tua Tagovailoa has taken his talents to another level this season.

The Miami Dolphins quarterback has been torching the rest of the NFL through the first seven weeks of the 2023 season. He leads the league's starting QBs in total passing yards, yards per attempt, completion percentage, and passing touchdowns while helping his team to an AFC East-leading 5-2 record.

Though his star power continues to grow on the gridiron, Tagovailoa maintains a relatively modest lifestyle away from the field. Here's how the 25-year-old makes and spends his millions.

Tua Tagovailoa is, by many metrics, the NFL's top quarterback this season.

Tua Tagovailoa with the Miami Dolphins.
Tua Tagovailoa with the Miami Dolphins.Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The 25-year-old Miami Dolphins quarterback leads all NFL quarterbacks with 2,092 passing yards through the first seven games of the 2023 season, edging out the likes of two-time league MVP Patrick Mahomes, Super Bowl champion Matt Stafford, and other top QB talents.

Tagovailoa also leads the NFL with 9.1 yards per attempt, 298.9 yards per game, and 15 passing touchdowns on the year. Plus, he has his team well positioned to win the AFC East with a division-leading 5-2 record.

The Hawaiian star's professional success comes as little surprise given his background.

Tua Tagovailoa stiff arms an opponent while running the ball in high school.
Tua Tagovailoa stiff arms an opponent while running the ball in high school.Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

Born and raised in Ewa Beach, Hawaii — located within the city and county of Honolulu — Tagovailoa showed promise as a quarterback from an early age. From the age of 2, his father forced him to throw with his non-dominant hand, molding him into the lefty force of nature we've come to know.

When Tagovailoa was 8 years old, the future star was reportedly able to launch 30-yard passes while his peers struggled to make 10-yard throws. And he quickly learned to prioritize accuracy after his dad began to beat him with a belt every time he threw interceptions, as Tagovailoa himself told reporter Tom Rinaldi in an interview that aired on ESPN's "College Gameday."

By the time he joined the Saint Louis Crusaders' varsity squad, Tagovailoa had already been hailed "the next Marcus Mariota" — a Hawaiian star who went on to the NFL. He threw for 3,932 yards and 43 touchdowns during his senior season.

It was only fitting that the top dual-threat quarterback prospect in America would take his talents to the top program in college football: Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide.

Tagovailoa began his Alabama tenure on the bench, then earned the starting QB spot over a future NFL starter.

Tua Tagovailoa
Tua Tagovailoa with the Alabama Crimson Tide.Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Despite his dominance in high school, Tagovailoa did not immediately take over at the collegiate level. His first season in Tuscaloosa was largely spent as a back-up to Jalen Hurts, who has gone on to become a superstar quarterback for the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles.

Still, Tagovailoa saw the field quite a bit during the latter minutes of the Crimson Tide's many blow-out victories. But his true breakthrough came during the 2018 National Championship game, when he replaced a struggling Hurts at halftime, led Alabama to an overtime victory, and earned Offensive MVP honors for the contest.

Tagovailoa started every subsequent game he played with the Crimson Tide, even as Hurts remained on the roster. After a standout 2018 season in which he threw for 3,966 yards and 43 touchdowns, the true sophomore led Alabama to its fourth-straight College Football Playoff and its third-straight championship appearance.

An injury-laden junior season followed, and his Crimson Tide career ended on a brutal sack that left him with a dislocated and fractured hip. Tagovailoa declared for the NFL Draft shortly thereafter, and without him under center for the remainder of that 2019 campaign, Alabama's College Football Playoff streak grounded to a halt.

The southpaw's draft stock slipped due to concerns surrounding the injury that ended his college career.

Tua Tagovailoa at the NFL Combine.
Tua Tagovailoa at the NFL Combine.Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Tagovailoa was long billed as a generational talent who had the potential to turn a lowly NFL franchise's fortunes around. But the considerable injuries to his right hip, which required surgery, sowed the seeds of doubt for several teams at the top of the 2020 NFL Draft order.

Still, only four teams passed on him, and only one selected a quarterback; the Cincinnati Bengals took that year's Heisman Trophy winner and national champion, Joe Burrow, out of LSU.

The Dolphins swooped in and nabbed Tagovailoa with the fifth overall pick, a move that many, even then, saw as a steal. But it took some time for the young star out of Hawaii to prove Miami's decision makers right.

Much like in college, Tagovailoa began his Dolphins career on the bench before earning the starting job mid-season.

Tua Tagovailoa calls out a play during a preseason game.
Tua Tagovailoa calls out a play during a preseason game.AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

With veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick on the roster, Miami opted to kick off its 2020 season with an experienced quarterback under center. But the Dolphins gave Tagovailoa a chance to start after earning an even 3-3 record through their bye week.

Though he didn't immediately shine, the rookie showed flashes of brilliance and ultimately finished the season with a winning record in the games he started. He became the permanent starter the next year, but some early-season injuries set him — and the team — back considerably.

Once again, Miami missed the postseason, and some began to question whether Tagovailoa was up to the task of leading the Dolphins out of their years-long hole.

He silenced the doubters in 2022, but his breakout didn't come without controversy.

Tua Tagovailoa walks off the field after a win against the Buffalo Bills.
Tua Tagovailoa walks off the field after a win against the Buffalo Bills.AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

With a new coach — Mike McDaniel — patrolling the sidelines, Tagovailoa enjoyed remarkable growth in 2022. His surge to superstardom instantly elevated the long-struggling Miami squad.

Tagovailoa threw for 3,548 yards — good for 12th-best in the league despite missing four games — and earned an NFL-best 105.5 passer rating on the year. He also earned the first Pro Bowl selection of his career while leading the team to a 9-8 record.

Despite the success of their quarterback, the Dolphins came under intense scrutiny after Tagovailoa suffered a series of head injuries at a rapid clip. He left Miami's third game of the season with what the team called a "back injury" but what many suspected was a concussion, and after he returned to the game, the NFLPA launched an investigation into whether the Dolphins violated the league's concussion protocol.

The very next game, Tagovailoa took a massive hit from the Cincinnati Bengals' defense and lay virtually motionless on the turf aside from stiffened fingers — a response typically associated with a severe brain injury. He was once again concussed, prompting the league and players association to adjust its concussion protocol, per The New York Times.

He suffered yet another concussion towards the end of the season. Despite leading the Dolphins to their first playoff bid in six years, Tagovailoa was unable to participate in the team's Wild Card game and watched Miami lose to the Buffalo Bills from the sidelines.

Tagovailoa considered walking away from the game after his string of concussions.

Tua Tagovailoa sits on the ground after taking a hit against the Buffalo Bills.
Tua Tagovailoa sits on the ground after taking a hit against the Buffalo Bills.Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Several months after his season-ending concussion, Tagovailoa revealed in a press conference that he and his family seriously discussed the prospect of his early retirement.

"I considered it for a time, having sat down with my family, having sat down with my wife and having those kind of conversations," Tagovailoa said, per ESPN. "But it would be really hard for me to walk away from this game with how old I am."

Instead, he resolved to change his approach to the game in order to mitigate the potential for injuries. He took up jiu-jitsu during the offseason to work on "learning how to fall."

"We used crash pads to land on first, with trying to fall," Tagovailoa said. "Tucking your chin, that was one of the deals, but it went a lot more into the technique of how to disperse your energy when you fall."

He's had his best season yet in 2023.

Tua Tagovailoa celebrates a play.
Tua Tagovailoa celebrates a play.AP Photo/Chris Szagola

The Dolphins are one of the most electric teams in football in 2023. Tagovailoa, along with star receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle as well as running back Raheem Mostert, have led a historic offense that can rack up hundreds of yards in the blink of an eye.

Take their Week 3 matchup against the Denver Broncos. Miami became the first franchise in NFL history to score 70 points and surpass 700 yards of offense.

And Tagovailoa has improved many of his already top-notch statistics from the 2022 campaign. Through the first half of the 2023 season, he boasts a higher passer rating, a greater completion percentage, and more yards per attempt. Plus, he's on pace to shatter his career-high passing yards from a year ago.

Tagovailoa's recent play has made his four-year, $30+ million contract well worth it to the Dolphins.

Tua Tagovailoa looks on during a Dolphins game.
Tua Tagovailoa.Jeff Dean/AP Images

Shortly after he was drafted, Tagovailoa signed a four-year, $30,275,438 rookie deal with Miami. The young star earned a $7.6 million average annual salary from the contract, all of which was fully guaranteed, per Spotrac.

Well ahead of the lefty's fourth season with the franchise, the Dolphins exercised their star quarterback's fifth-year option. Whereas Tagovailoa will earn $9.6 million for the 2023 season, he's set to rake in a whopping $23,171,000 fully guaranteed the following year thanks to the deal with Miami.

And that's just the money he's making in NFL salary.

The superstar quarterback makes considerable cash from sponsorships and investments.

Tua Tagovailoa wears Bose headphones.
Tua Tagovailoa wears Bose headphones.AP Photo/Doug Murray

Tagovailoa inked some high-profile endorsement deals shortly after leaving college for the pros. Bose, Muscle Milk, Wingstop, and Adidas were all early partners for the budding star.

He's since added Gatorade and Perry Ellis to his well-rounded portfolio, and he's certainly earning some serious money from the deals. In fact, Tagovailoa has said he won't touch any of the money he earns directly from the Dolphins; he told GQ he plans to live exclusively off of his endorsements and save the rest.

While some outlets like Marca and ClutchPoints estimate his net worth to be between $1 and $4 million, Tagovailoa likely has more money than that. If he truly hasn't dipped into his earnings from his NFL salary, he should have most of that $19.6 million sitting in the bank from his 2020 signing bonus (minus income taxes, of course).

Though he's careful with his money, Tagovailoa has made several big purchases since going pro.

Tua Tagovailoa.
Tua Tagovailoa.Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Tagovailoa lives rather modestly — especially for one of the NFL's top quarterbacks. But after joining the league, he made a few purchases that reflected his newfound fortune.

The then-22-year-old shared on Instagram that he bought his mom an $80,000 Cadillac Escalade for Mother's Day. He spent another $10,000 on a classic Rolex watch for his dad, he told GQ.

But his parents weren't the only ones getting cars and jewelry. Tagovailoa bought himself two cars: a sturdy SUV in the Ford Flex and a heart-pounding sports car in the BMW I8. He also told GQ he bought himself a pair of diamond earrings for roughly $4,000.

His biggest purchase to date was his first home, as he noted in the same interview. The six-bedroom, four-bathroom pad cost Tagovailoa $1.65 million. He's said the best feature of the house is its ample outdoor space for at-home workouts and a pool for plunging afterwards.

He also has a family to feed.

Tua Tagovailoa.
Tua Tagovailoa.Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Though he's only 25 years old, Tagovailoa already has a family of his own. He and his wife, Annah, tied the knot in 2022 and have a son together named Ace.

The family also has three (rather large) dogs in their household. They have two American Bulldogs — Dallas and Star — and a third, even larger dog Tyreek Hill once referred to as a "moose" on Instagram.

Faith and philanthropy both factor into Tagovailoa's life in a massive way.

Tua Tagovailoa points to the sky after the Miami Dolphins scored a touchdown.
Tua Tagovailoa points to the sky after the Miami Dolphins scored a touchdown.Megan Briggs/Getty Images

The Dolphins' leading man is a devout evangelical Christian, and his faith was a major driving force behind his decision to play for Alabama in college. Tagovailoa visited Tuscaloosa's "Church of the Highlands" while checking out the school and the football facilities and "fell in love" with the megachurch's offerings.

"That's what really caught his attention the first time he visited last year," Tagovailoa's mother, Diane, told

His commitment to his faith helps motivate his commitment to philanthropy. Shortly after he was drafted into the NFL, Tagovailoa established a scholarship fund to enable local Hawaiian students to attend his alma mater.

The next year, he launched the "Tua Foundation," a nonprofit aimed at supporting "youth initiatives, health and wellness, and other charitable causes," according to its website. The organization primarily focuses its efforts in Hawaii, Alabama, and Miami, and has been particularly active in providing aid following the 2023 Maui wildfires.

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