“I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season. You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season. God Bless.” -TT 27 Sept. 2008 “Promise Speech”
Unfortunately, Tim Tebow is a controversial figure in the sports world. Ultra religious, he has been treated as a pope-like figure. Loved by many, hated by even more. The media circus that he brings with him tarnishes his reputation as an all-time great college football player. “The Mile-high Messiah” has gotten so much negative attention that it has gotten in the way of the substance of his athletic career. Arguably, people hate the media coverage of Tim Tebow more than anyone else. I have heard it time and again. Why is the media covering Tim Tebow’s Single A baseball career with the Columbia Fireflies?
This article will not answer that question. Instead, it will focus on his epic college football career with the Florida Gators.
As a fan of college football, a few things stick out to me when I recall watching college football in my lifetime: the 2005 Rose Bowl game between Texas and USC where Vince Young helped lead the Longhorns to arguably the greatest college football game in my lifetime, and Tim Tebow. The guy was incredible. From his press conferences and halftime speeches, to his play on the field, he was the player I looked up to the most. Sure, I was raised Catholic, and take a lot of pride in my faith, but my respect for Tim Tebow the college football player was unparalleled. He embodied everything that makes college football so remarkable.
He was a true warrior. His teammates and coaches praised his work ethic and leadership. He was super-human to Gator Nation. The love and support for him was evident in every single game that he played. He played his butt off for his team and would take a hit to help his team win 100 out of 100 times. That cannot be said for most players. He was special.
As a freshman, Tebow was not the starting quarterback, but he played a significant role for the Gators. He ran QB draws mostly with the occasional pass. He was a big contributor to the Gator’s 2007 BCS National Championship win. He threw for one TD and rushed for another.
During the 2007 season, he took the college football world by storm. He was the only player in FBS history to rush and pass for at least 20 TDs in the same season. 32 passing TDs and 23 rushing TDs. He was crowned as the first ever Sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. And yet, his team finished 9-4. Ask him, he would have traded the Heisman for another BCS National Championship. He just wanted to win.
In 2008, the team did just that. He finished third in Heisman voting and won the Maxwell Award for best college football player voted on by the sports media (the first to ever win the award back-to-back). It was that year that he gave his forever immortalized Promise Speech. The team had been upset 31-30 at home to Ole Miss. He promised that a lot of good would come out of it and that no team or player would work harder than his Gator team and himself. He backed up his words. He backed up those words and the team ran the table the rest of the year. They won the 2009 BCS National Championship, the second of TT’s career. Shortly after the season, he had surgery to remove a bone spur in his throwing shoulder. The guy was tough as nails and would not let that stop him.
In 2009, he returned to Gainesville despite the opportunity to be a top draft pick in the NFL. He was again determined to win the National Championship. He battled respiratory illness and suffered a concussion in which he played motionless on the field for minutes before getting up and vomiting on the sidelines. Through it all, he kept playing when he was medically cleared. He broke Herschel Walker’s SEC rushing TD mark when he rushed for 57 career rushing TD’s. That was on top of 87 career passing TDs. His team won the 2010 Sugar Bowl against Cincinnati. He passed for 482 yards and three TDs. He accounted for 4 TDs and 533 yards of total offense, a BCS Championship Series Record.
While his athletic career after UF is marred in controversy and criticism, Tim Tebow was the greatest college football player in my lifetime to this point. Sure, there were other greats, but no one on his level. Before you criticize him for his life or character, acknowledge his greatness in college. He earned that and deserves it.