This, by the way, was coming from one of the biggest admirers of Tim Tebow on the planet, a guy who considers No. 15 the greatest Gator and one of the three best college football players of all time.
I saw him play every snap in college. Walked down Broadway in New York City with him and his coach as they celebrated winning the Heisman Trophy, arm around each other, like two fraternity boys proud of their date-night conquests. Wrote literally thousands of words about him, including a good chunk in my book “Urban’s Way.”
But sometimes you just reach a saturation point where you get sick of yourself. So I just stopped cold turkey. For more than five years, I had been addicted to Tebow like golfer Bubba Watson is addicted to grilled cheese and hash browns at the Waffle House.
America and I had reached our limit. I believe it was when ESPN mentioned his name 175 times in one day. Really.
I needed a 12-step program because I, like so many others, had become completely enamored of this young man.
I think it started when I was writing a biography on Meyer, when I was allowed behind the closed doors of practices and inside the locker room. Sat five feet in front of Tebow when he extemporaneously delivered “The Promise.” And then he backed it up. Talked to him in private or group interviews a good 40 or more times. Ate a team meal with him. Once I even listened in on the headsets. Rode the team bus and trailed behind him on the Gator walk, where he stopped to hug three women — all of them in their 50s or more.
Let’s be honest: Except for his archrivals, a bunch of dunderheads and killjoys, we pretty much all loved Tim Tebow.
I will always remember the unmitigated joy of Meyer saying, “I’m the luckiest coach in the world! I get to coach Tim Tebow every day!” And then I saw it again the night I was on a private boat ride with Meyer and his staff when Tebow finally was drafted by the Broncos. I began to realize Meyer was more nervous than an expectant father.
When Tebow went to Denver, I bought the expanded NFL package on DirecTV and watched every Sunday in hopes of seeing him play. And when he did, my whole family became hooked on Tebow. We shall never forget his moment of glory. You had to believe in divine intervention when, with exactly 3:16 left in the first NFL game played under the new overtime rules, Tebow threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas to give Denver the 29–23 victory. All of a sudden, things felt right with the world.
All that remained was a ticker-tape parade, as the world had now been introduced to this hero of biblical proportions. I even signed up as a co-author with Woody Paige on a book, essentially designed to become the tale of Tebow Then/Tebow Now. And then Newton’s Law kicked in. The book never got another look from a publisher. Peyton Manning showed up in Denver, no doubt to avenge himself from never having beaten the Gators, and stole the thunder and the job.
I never saw momentum change so fast in the other direction for a team, or a player. The downward spiral sucked away the dream. And hopefully without offending any of my bible-reading Christian friends, it was not unlike the plagues of Job. If steel sharpened steel, then Tim Tebow could slice a diamond in half.
I mention this in a week when Tebow’s NFL cameo role very likely has ended and he picks up the headset on the SEC Network to broadcast another set of signals.
Looking back now, I realize now how privileged I was to observe the magnificence of this young athlete in the primary colors of his college campaign. And I shall always see him in orange and blue — Florida’s and not Denver’s — but certainly not Philadelphia green.
And I remain confounded: After more than 50 years of watching football, how it is that a young athlete so committed to all the right things, giving his heart to the game and setting examples for so many young people to emulate, cannot be worthy of a roster spot somewhere among 32 teams?
Don’t make me drag out all those stats — to have to tell you about the two national championships, the playoff-game win and the AFC West Division title that Tebow somehow manufactured. Don’t make me whip out that long list of NFL quarterbacks who never have won anything.
No, let’s just close the door softly and say a polite, “Thank you, Tim.” He gave a lot more than he got.
Personally, I always will regret that it didn’t end well between Tebow and myself. He probably doesn’t remember, but after his last college game, a Sugar Bowl win over Cincinnati, I asked a hurried, poorly worded question on deadline when my colleague thrust the mic in front of my face as I sat down for the presser. It was the last of probably 100 questions I’d asked him over four years. And Tebow didn’t let me off the hook.
What I wanted to say was except for a weird set of circumstances in the SEC championship game, which Florida lost to Alabama after star defensive end Carlos Dunlap was suspended for being passed out at a traffic light, this might have been a season for the ages. Win that game and Florida might have been national champion for the third time in four years with Meyer as coach and Tebow his weapon.
Instead, it came out something like, “Tim, congratulations on the win, but will you ever allow yourself to think what might have been?”
To which Tebow quickly retorted something like, “What kind of question is that? That’s a crappy question.”
He was right. After four marvelous seasons and a night when he accounted for more than 500 yards in offense and five touchdowns, it was a “crappy question.”
So, I’m sorry, Tim. And I’m even sorrier that you took so much abuse from so many idiots who never appreciated the style and grace you brought to the game.
There, I feel better — like I just ate a grilled cheese and hash browns at Waffle House. With Bubba buying.