He was back in Gainesville on August 14 when the SEC Network debuted, but this trip allowed him to be back around the life of a college student that he fell in love with during his four years at Florida. Sitting around the SEC Nation set in the Plaza of the Americas on Friday, Tebow had a look of excitement in his eyes.
His job doesn’t give him an excuse to be anything but excited, going across the country to see some of the best football games in the country in some of the most passionate atmospheres. This weekend is no different on the job, but it also brings the nostalgia back.
“That building right there is where I had my first class when I got here,” Tim Tebow said, pointing over the gathering crowd towards Matherly Hall, nestled at the corner of University Boulevard and 13th Street. “I think it was like a 7:50 (a.m.) class. It’s fun. I have so many great memories and love the University of Florida.”
When the set was being built on Thursday and Friday, swarms of students made their way by it. Some on their way to class, others just hoping to get a glimpse of the former Heisman Trophy and national title winner at Florida. So when Tebow took the stage of the set on Friday afternoon with Marcus Spears and Joe Tessitore, the crowd went into a frenzy.
It’s second nature for Tebow to see in Gainesville. The crowds followed him around as a student, and now returned as an SEC Network analyst, it’s no different. He spent over 30 minutes signing autographs for fans, taking selfies with students and even holding one man’s baby.
“I have pretty good memories at almost every campus in the SEC,” Tebow said with a grin, “but obviously, this was home for me for four years. It was a special home. Coming back here is just a little more special (than other SEC campuses).”
He didn’t want to talk much about how open he would be to a return to the NFL if it was offered, choosing instead to point to the positive opportunity he has with the SEC Network. And he’s right. Veteran broadcaster and host of SEC Nation Joe Tessitore raved about Tebow’s work ethic. The time and effort he put into pouring over film as a quarterback is still there, only now it’s shown in his preparation for work.
While he’s still training and working out to stay in shape if an NFL team does come calling, he continues to spend time watching film as if he was playing, too.
“I study every day, watching and getting coach’s film, breaking it down,” Tebow said. “I’m looking at how I’d attack defenses. It’s awesome for me. It keeps me in the game and it’s fun.”
His love for the University of Florida hasn’t wavered at all, and that won’t change in the future. It does have to go into hiding once the cameras start rolling, but Tebow has seen that happen naturally.
“You analyze the tape, look at film and give your opinion as someone that played the game and has been around it. I’ll always be a Gator fan, but when I’m on the show, you take that away and look at the facts,” Tebow said. “You look at your ability to analyze tape and film. If I think they’re going to win, I’ll say it. If I think they’re going to lose, I’ll say that, too. You take being a fan out of it for a little while.”
And that Florida film has been impressive to work after one week.
The 65-0 win over Eastern Michigan showcased an offense from Kurt Roper that is much improved in Tebow’s eyes. It’s all about getting the ball to playmakers in space, something Tebow is familiar with from his playing days at Florida. With a reinvigorated offense, the program could be headed back to the top of the conference.
“Very impressed,” Tebow said of Florida. “You look at what Kurt Roper has done offensively, and he’s giving these guys an opportunity to play in space and be successful in space. That will really help this offense. Coach Muschamp, he’s always doing a great job with the defense, all the way back to when we played him in 2007 when he was at Auburn.”