Former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer told Les Carpenter of the Washington Post that Tua Tagovailoa's father, Galu, reached out to him to train the Alabama quarterback ahead of this year's NFL draft, saying he needed someone who "would not kiss his Tua's butt."
While Dilfer initially balked, he eventually agreed to work with Tagovailoa, under a few conditions: The training would be done secretly at Nashville's Lipscomb Academy football facility, with no social media posts or self-promotion.
Dilfer said he wanted their work together to emulate how Rocky Balboa trained in isolation in Rocky IV.
The young quarterback hadn't seen the film, so Dilfer recounted it for him, telling him about how Balboa went to train remotely to avenge the death of his best friend Apollo Creed, who had been killed in the ring by Ivan Drago.
"He went to the Ukraine and he gets away from everything to build himself up to fight Drago," Dilfer told Tagovailoa. "I don't think you know what you are asking for in coming here, but we are going to literally rebuild you."
Those training sessions included intensive film study, five hours a day spent in the weight room and football drills with Dilfer. He studied with NFL coach Ken Whisenhunt, diagramming plays and preparing for team meetings.
Given the grueling nature of his offseason program, Dilfer's Rocky IV analogy sunk in for Tagovailoa, who eventually watched the film.
"This is the Ukraine," the Alabama quarterback said.
But the result of Dilfer's camp was that the Young quarterback is "100 percent, he can play in a game tomorrow and be completely safe," Dilfer said.
And while LSU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow seems locked in as the No. 1 overall pick for the Cincinnati Bengals, Dilfer believes Tagovailoa is the best quarterback available.
"If he would have never gotten hurt there would have been no discussion about who the best player in the draft is," he said. "He throws the football better than anyone throws the football. He throws better than Aaron Rodgers and Dan Marino. Whoever gets him wins the draft because you are getting a Hall of Fame player."
Lofty praise, but Tagovailoa had a superb college career, finishing as the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2018 after throwing for 3,966 yards, 43 touchdowns and six interceptions. He followed that up last season with 2,840 yards, 33 touchdowns and just three interceptions in nine games, completing 71.4 percent of his passes.
A dislocated right hip ended that season prematurely and potentially hurt his draft stock. Without the injury, perhaps he's in the running to be the top overall pick. But after going full Rocky Balboa, it appears Tagovailoa is ready for anything the NFL throws his way.