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Tua Tagovailoa joins fraternity of South Florida athletes with tricky last names

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Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

You may have heard that the 2020 NFL Draft is in progress. It’s an especially critical one for the Miami Dolphins, who last season depleted their roster of viable veteran players to focus on accumulating long-term assets. As a result, they entered the draft Thursday night with 14 total picks—the highest total of any team—including the No. 5 overall selection. With that first-rounder, they landed their main target: Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The national championship-winning lefty possesses incredible accuracy and intangibles, a unique and catchy first name...and one of the trickiest last names in South Florida professional sports history.

What do I mean by that? It’s a name that the average sports fan in this market would find difficult to both spell and pronounce despite familiarity with the athlete themselves.

As a journalist with broadcasting experience, I pride myself on being able to learn every name, no exceptions. But admittedly, these Marlins, Dolphins, Heat and Panthers have been among the most challenging.

  • Jeff Uhlenhake (Dolphins)—An overachieving fifth-round draft pick, Uhlenhake frequently started at center from 1989-1993.
  • John Vanbiesbrouck (Panthers)—The newly created Florida Panthers acquired Vanbiesbrouck in the 1993 expansion draft. He would go on to make the NHL All-Star team and serve as their goalie for the franchise’s first five seasons.
  • Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Heat)—The Lithuanian center was best known for developing a strong rapport with LeBron James during their years together on the Cleveland Cavaliers. When LeBron took his talents to South Beach in the summer of 2010, so did Ilgauskas (aka “Big Z”). He averaged five points and four rebounds per game for that team which reached the NBA Finals.
  • Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Marlins)—Jeffrey Loria paid a premium for Salty in free agency coming off his best all-around season, which helped the 2013 Red Sox to the World Series title. The West Palm Beach native was envisioned as the Marlins’ primary catcher for the next three years. Unfortunately, he didn’t even make it halfway through the contract before being designated for assignment with a .209/.310/.351 slash line and 19.4% caught stealing rate.
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images
  • Odrisamer Despaigne (Marlins)—The crafty right-hander was a double whammy for media members, born with extremely rare first and last names. In 2018, he became the first-ever Marlins pitcher to start a game after pitching in relief the previous night. Beyond that, though, his tenure in Miami was unspectacular (4.52 ERA, 3.95 FIP, 1.42 WHIP in 81.2 IP). Over the winter, Despaigne signed with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, whose 2020 regular season will begin May 5 now that the country has successfully contained the spread of COVID-19.
2020 NFL Draft - Round 1 Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images
  • Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins)—The Hawaiian phenom has as much pro potential as any QB in his draft class. If not for prior ankle surgeries and a frightening hip injury, he may have been out of reach for the Dolphins at No. 5. Fortunately, he fell into their laps while reportedly being 100% healthy. It’s far too soon to predict Tua’s career path, but his selection could prove to be one of the most significant moments in Miami sports history.