Just this January, the United States got to know Tua Tagovailoa. Marcus Mariota was also shocked the first time he saw his fellow Hawaiian's quarterbacking skills -- but that moment was roughly ten years ago.

"My high school quarterback coach puts on these camps during the weekends and he really opens it up for everybody," Mariota remembers. "I must have been a freshman or in eighth grade, and Tua came up. He was probably 8 or 9 years old, and when he started throwing it, we all kind of looked around at each other like, 'He's got a shot to be pretty good.' And from there on, we ended up going to the same high school and I got to know him, I got to know his family a little bit. It's fun to see him grow, to see him have some success."

Mariota flew under the radar at the Saint Louis School in Honolulu. ESPN ranked him as the No. 123 quarterback in his class. But Mariota went to Oregon and became the first Hawaiian-born player to win a Heisman Trophy.

Tagovailoa, coming out of Saint Louis six years later, was ranked as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in his class. At Alabama he started dressing as a freshman, backing up reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year, Jalen Hurts. Of course, with the Crimson Tide down 13 at halftime in this past season's national championship game, Nick Saban swapped out Hurts for Tagovailoa to start the second half. Tagovailoa subsequently threw for 166 yards and three touchdowns as the Tide beat Georgia in overtime, 26-23.

"Oh, definitely," Mariota says, when asked if he was nervous watching Tagovailoa in the second half. "I mean for him to be down 13 points and to come back, it was remarkable.

"I was ecstatic, man. I was so happy for him. I've known him for a very long time, and to see him grow up and to make the plays that he did in that game was incredible. And really that interview he did after the game, that's who he is. He's such a good kid, and I always wish him the best, and I think he can be a star."

Tua Tagovailoa

Tagovailoa went from backup to eternal hero in Tuscaloosa overnight. But he still has at least two more years left at the NCAA level. Assuming Hurts -- or Tagovailoa -- does not transfer, the two will be expected to compete for the Crimson Tide starting quarterback job.

If Tagovailoa lives up to his hype, he should be on an NFL field against Mariota in the near future, despite some size concerns. Tagovailoa is listed at 6-1, 219 pounds, which are not standard NFL QB dimensions. For example, Mariota is 6-4, 222. Nick Foles and Tom Brady, this year's two Super Bowl quarterbacks, are 6-6  and 6-4, respectively.

"He's got heart," Mariota counters. "I think his ability to run, make some plays with his feet. You look across the league, there are guys that are doing it at a similar size.  If he gets an opportunity, if he continues to play well, someone will give him a shot.

"He's got a special attitude, he's got a special demeanor about him and hopefully if he continues on that same road, I think he can be great."

Nick Saban gave him a chance. And Tagovailoa did not throw away his shot.

For college football fans, the Legend of Tua was a pleasant surprise. For Mariota, iT was inevitable.

Mariota spoke to ThePostGame on Super Bowl Radio Row in Minneapolis on behalf of SPAM, which is based in Minnesota. Hawaii consumes SPAM at a higher per capita rate than any other state in the U.S.

-- Follow Jeff Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband. Like Jeff Eisenband on Facebook.

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