US ARMY GAME: Tebow Has Become East Leader

SAN ANTONIO --- It has been a few weeks since Tim Tebow sent a charge of electricity through Gator Nation while breaking half the hearts in the state of Alabama. When he said yes to Coach Urban Meyer, the quarterback that most fans envision as the poster child for the spread option offense further intensified a recruiting wave for the Florida Gators that that hasn't been seen since Charley Pell was stockpiling what amounted to an NFL team back in the 1980s.

(See Tim Tebow profile)

Since Tebow chose the Gators over Alabama back in December, he has been the subject of a documentary on ESPN called "The Chosen One", played in the CaliFlorida Bowl (all-star game between the best high school players in California and Florida) and he's done his part to help Coach Meyer bring in what will likely be the number one recruiting class in America. He is 100 percent Gator 100 percent of the time and counting down the days until he enrolls at the University of Florida.

"I start out Monday at 7:35 in the morning," said Tebow, who will be playing for the East team in Saturday's US Army All-American Bowl at the Alamo Dome. "I get back home late Sunday and then I'll be starting out Monday morning but I'll be ready. This is a very exciting time for me.

"I'm really looking forward to starting classes, getting to know my new teammates and coaches and doing all the workouts. The early morning workouts are going to be new to me but it's something I think I'll like it because of all the new stuff I'll be learning."

It has been a long, productive journey for Tebow. He finished out his record-setting high school career at Nease with a state championship. The numbers for his career are nothing short of staggering: 9,810 passing yards good for 95 touchdowns and 3,169 rushing yards for another 63 touchdowns. The numbers would have been even more impressive except he broke a bone in his leg during his sophomore year, causing him to miss several games, and he was limited his senior year by a high ankle sprain.

Now he is in the US Army game where he's already considered the team leader for the East team. His teammates tease him in a good natured manner about the ESPN documentary. Linebacker Jarrell Miller of Highland Springs, Virginia has nicknamed him "Tom Cruise" and several have insisted that Tebow autograph their T-shirts.

He was slowed down Monday by some flu-like symptoms but he was feeling much better Tuesday after a night of rest. He looked good running the ball Tuesday, making good decisions on the option and he threw the ball very well, looking particularly good when he hooked up a couple of times with future Gator teammates Percy Harvin, the five-star receiver from Virginia Beach (VA) Landstown.

"It's just an awesome experience to be here playing on the same field with all these great players," said Tebow. "These guys are All-Americans. They're all studs and great players. Percy Harvin is awesome as a slot receiver. It's amazing what he can do when he gets the ball in his hands.

"The game is a lot faster at this level so I think it's going to help get me ready to play college football. I think it's a lot more fun playing with guys who can run this fast and do the kind of things these guys can do."

Tebow felt a huge weight lift off his shoulders when he made his commitment to Florida. The recruiting process was an experience that had its good and not so enjoyable moments. The best part of the process was being able to go with his heart and tell Coach Urban Meyer that he wanted to be a Gator. The tough part was saying no to Coach Mike Shula of Alabama, whom he respects deeply.

In the final analysis, he chose Florida because he felt most comfortable with the way that Meyer gets so involved in the lives of his players.

"That was very important to me because the one thing I really wanted was a coach who is so involved with the lives of each and every player," he said. "It's especially important to have a coach who wants to help make you a better person.

"I think that's something all the Florida coaches do and it's not just Coach Meyer. It's everybody on the staff. They're all interested in doing what they can to help you become all you can be as a person and a better football player … and everybody loves Coach (Greg) Mattison. Even though he is the defensive coordinator, he's one of my favorite coaches."

During this week when he's not bonding with some of his future teammates like Jarred Fayson (Tampa Hillsborough), Corey Hobbs (Oviedo), Harvin and Carl Johnson (Durham, NC Southern), he's doing his part to help the Florida recruiting process. He's talking up the Gators to players like Brandon Sikes of Shelby (NC) Crest, Andre Smith of Birmingham (AL) Huffman and C.J. Spiller of Lake Butler Union County.

"I'm just doing what I can to help Coach Meyer and the Gators," he said. "We want to finish with the top recruiting class in the country. The goal all of us coming in this year have is to win a national championship together. We're trying to bring in a few more guys."

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