University of Florida
“I just want to say one thing to the fans and everybody in Gator Nation. I’m sorry. I’m extremely sorry…
“But I promise you one thing…You will never see a player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. And you will never see another player push everybody as hard as I will the rest of the season. And you will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season. God Bless.”
Those were the words of a visibility agitated and emotional Florida junior quarterback Tim Tebow days after the Gators’ 31-30 upset home loss to Ole Miss.
With those words, Tim Tebow took the 10 jillion gigawatt spotlight of the college football world and put it squarely on himself. With those words, the Florida Gators won a National championship and Tim Tebow clinched the 72nd annual Maxwell Award.
After that loss, Tebow’s Gators steamrolled over opponents, winning their last 10 games- eight of them against bowl-bound opponents- while averaging nearly 47 points per contest.
“Sitting in the locker room after that game and looking into everyone's eyes following what happened,” says Tebow, “I felt that we would work harder and pull together to do the best we could for the rest of the season.”
The season culminated with consecutive double digit defeats of #1-ranked teams. Florida convincingly beat top ranked Alabama 31-20 in the SEC Championship game. Tebow threw for three touchdown passes while rushing for 57 yards against one of the nation’s stingiest defenses.
The win set up a berth in the BCS Championship game against #1 Oklahoma. Florida won 24-14, giving Tebow and Florida their second national title in three years. Tebow completed 18 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns, while gaining over 100 yards on the ground.
As a devout Christian- Tebow was born in the Philippines to missionary parents who ran an orphanage there- the lefty would be familiar with Proverbs 12:18: “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Florida healed.
In the vast universe of sports writing clichés, “Throwback” and “Tim Tebow” go together as frequently as “Frozen Tundra” and “Lambeau Field”. It is easy to see why.
Most quarterbacks pass first and run second. Tebow’s arm is as good as any in college. In 2008, he completed over 64% of his 298 pass attempts for 2,746 yards and 30 touchdowns. His rating was 172.4…which actually brought his career passer rating down. Just 11 of his lifetime passes have been intercepted.
What makes Tebow such a unique threat is his fullback’s size (240 pounds) and his ability to take off like a tailback after a direct snap. The Jacksonville native led the Gators in carries (176), yards (673) and rushing touchdowns (12).
“Tim's level of commitment is unmatched - he has more drive to succeed than anyone I have ever coached,” observed Florida head coach Urban Meyer.
As a triple threat option- to run, hand off or pass every time he touches the ball- it is no wonder the media is quick to anoint Tebow as the leader of a single-wing revival. Tebow’s style often looks more appropriate for an offense in 1953: The only other year that a Maxwell Award winner- John Lattner of Notre Dame- repeated.
As ABC anchor John Saunders mused in September, “Urban Meyer told me that (Tebow) is the best player he has ever seen. Not the best QB, but the best football player.
An argument could be made for best person. Tebow is ESPN the Magazine’s two time Academic All-American of the Year. He has a 3.70 GPA while concentrating in Family, Youth and Community Services.
“Everything that people say and read about him is true, there is no front,” describes Meyer. “Tim is very passionate about what he believes in and is not afraid to express his thoughts.”
“For me, every day includes four things: God, family, academics and football, in that order,” explains Tebow. “My dad always encouraged me to keep my priorities in line. If something gets in the way, then I try to eliminate the obstacle to each goal.”
“Here is my superlative,” continued Saunders: “‘Most unique’. After (his award winning 2007 season), Tebow spent time with underprivileged youth, in hospitals, in prisons, in places like the Philippines and Croatia and Thailand.”
Saunders concluded, “They call Tebow ‘Superman.’ Maybe that’s not just a nickname.”