Leadership Is Tim Tebow's Greatest Asset

SAN ANTONIO --- It was in the third quarter when Tim Tebow really had a chance to show what makes him special. Under pressure, he navigated his way left in the East end zone, stepping up to avoid one tackle and just a split second before getting drilled, launched a pass 55 yards with the flick of his wrist into the waiting arms of Vidal Hazelton. What made this throw so impressive was that it was made under pressure and off the wrong foot, awkward to the eye but effective.

In Saturday's US Army All-American Bowl, Tebow didn't have to make too many plays. Surrounded by All-American talent, he was needed to be more of a game manager than playmaker so he did his part and his East team beat the West, 27-16. He finished the game with 18 net yards rushing (he was sacked twice) and 84 passing yards on a 4-10 effort, not spectacular but good enough in a game where there was only 421 yards of total offense by BOTH teams.

What stood out most about Tebow, the five star Florida commitment from Ponte Vedra Beach Nease, wasn't what he did with his arm or his feet but what he did leading his team. That he can lead was perfectly clear back on Monday when the East held its first practices. Tebow was one of two quarterbacks on the team (Zach Frazer, Notre Dame commit, was the other) but it was Tebow who just ASSUMED the role of team leader. It was just the first day but this was indeed HIS team.

What made that so amazing was the quiet and unobtrusive way that he took command. There was nothing obnoxious about it. It was natural and his teammates automatically followed without reservation.

"My parents always told me that I had a choice," said Tebow after Saturday's game. "I can either be a follower or I can be a leader. I've always been encouraged to be a leader but most of it comes naturally. I think it's a God-given ability and I'm really thankful for it."

It's always been that way, says Bob Tebow, Tim's dad. Ever since Tim was a little tyke, kids have made their way to Tim and whatever he says goes.

"It's been amazing to watch his leadership skills develop," said Bob Tebow when he joined the Gator Country staff for lunch this past Monday. "Ever since he was a little guy, kids have just gravitated to him. Wherever he is, kids just follow him."

On the field, Tebow runs the gamut from fiery to positive encourager depending on the situation. He's not afraid to get in the face of a teammate but if he admonishes a teammate for a mistake it is always followed by words of encouragement and a slap on the shoulder.

Off the field he is good natured enough that he can take the teasing from teammates with a smile and a typical red face. Jealousy and envy aren't the source of the teasing. Even though Tebow had a documentary done about him that was aired on ESPN, absolutely no one begrudges him. Instead, it's just another reason for teammates to love the kid and they show it through their almost giggly teasing.

At their request, Tebow autographed the T-shirts of teammates and then endured a week of Jarrell Miller's teasing nickname "Tom Cruise."

"Man, he's just a great guy … a real leader … and he can take the teasing," said Miller, a four star linebacker (North Carolina commit) from Highland Springs, Virginia who came up with the nickname because Tebow is a combination media star and poster child with his boyish good looks.

"We'll follow Tim anywhere," said Carl Johnson, the five star offensive lineman from Durham (NC) Southern. "He's a great leader, a great person and a great quarterback."

It is the Tebow effect that lured Percy Harvin, the nation's top wide receiver and number three prospect overall, into the Florida fold. A few days after Tebow committed to the Gators in a nationally televised ESPN press conference, Harvin and teammate Damon McDaniel said yes to Florida.

"Me and Tebow want to combine to win a national championship together," said Harvin, the mercurial talent out of Virginia Beach (VA) Landstown. "You get a quarterback like Tebow and great things can happen. That's why we're trying to bring in a few more players to play for the Gators."

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It is also very obvious that the six Florida commitments who played in this game are 100 percent sold on the University of Florida. They were a virtual pack all week. Where you saw one Gator commitment, you saw the others.

Tebow, Jarred Fayson (Tampa Hillsborough), Corey Hobbs (Oviedo) and Carl Johnson (Durham, NC Southern) were always hanging around and they made certain that Brandon Spikes (Shelby, NC Crest) was shown a lot of love. All the Gator commitments expected Spikes to commit to the Gators but they took no chances.

Additionally, all the Gator commitments were constantly making their pitch to five star tailback C.J. Spiller (Lake Butler Union County), five star offensive tackle Andre Smith (Birmingham Huffman), five star offensive tackle Ian Symonette (Houston St. Pius) and five star defensive back Jai Eugene (Destrehan, LA).

The Gators lost out on Eugene, who pulled a mild shocker by selecting Michigan when the cameras were on him in the first quarter, but Florida is very much in it for Spiller, Smith and Symonette. Spiller spent the week hanging around with the Gator commitments, especially Tebow and Fayson, and Johnson and Smith were inseparable buddies.

"We're going to pull in C.J. from the dark side," said Johnson. "He's a perfect fit with the guys we've got coming in to the University of Florida."

Hobbs said this is a close group of players, all of whom are excited that they will be joining others in the Florida recruiting class for what they believe will be a foundation for future championships.

"We've all become very close friends," said Hobbs, a 6-5, 300-pounder. "It's great to hang around with these guys. We really believe we're going to win a national championship together someday."

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Hobbs said that the game was a huge confidence booster for him. Going against the huge East offensive line each day showed him that he truly belonged in the game.

"It's a whole new level of football that I've never known before and I'm glad that I had a chance to experience it," said Hobbs. "I can see where the gaps in my skill level are and once I fill those in it's going to be great.

"I was looking at using this week to measure me against the top competition and it is definitely a confidence booster. I feel that I played very well and I'm looking forward to getting to college where I can earn a playing position."

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Johnson is a five star tackle but he found himself in the new and very unfamiliar position of center when Dan Wenger of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas went down with an injury. He had a few awkward moments but acquitted himself well, especially down at the goal line where he just blew people off the line.

"Center is much harder than tackle," he said. "The pace inside is more difficult. When you're out there at tackle you're there on an island and it's just you and one guy … best man wins.

"At center, you're blocking a couple of people. You've got the guy right on your nose and you're probably going to help one of the guards. I'm not a true center but I played the position the coach needed me to play. Today I answered the call of duty."

It was a good moment for Johnson when his buddy Brandon Spikes chose Florida.

"We had six coaches here today from Florida and we got a commitment from Brandon Spikes so that's a good day," he said.

Johnson has been working on Spikes, a close friend since the two of them were high school sophomores, for the past few months.

"I'm one for one as a recruiter and now I'm working on Andre Smith," said Johnson. "We're going to get him into Gainesville for a visit and see what happens. We're going to keep the ball rolling with the recruiting and he'd be a great fit for us."

* * *

Spiller hurt his ankle again so he was limited to five carries. He had a couple of runs where he got to show that he can shuffle his feet to make a move and then be back at full speed within a step or two.

"I first noticed that I could do that when I was a sophomore," said Spiller, who still has four schools on his favorite list --- Florida, Miami, Southern Cal and Florida State. "I got knocked off my feet and in maybe one or two steps I was back at full speed again. It's something I've actually worked on and I'll keep working on it to get better. I think it's an important skill."

Spiller said he still hasn't made a decision on which school he'll be attending next year but said that it's been a great experience hanging around all week with the Gator commitments.

"They're a bunch of great guys and great football players," he said. "They're the kind of guys who can be your teammates on the field and your best friends off the field."

* * *

Harvin only got a couple of chances to show what he could do in the open field. On his first carry of the game, he turned on the jets and made several quick moves to turn a five-yard gain into 18 yards.

"I didn't get too many chances but we won and that's what's important," he said. "I'm happy that I had a great experience out here and that I could hang around with my future teammates."

There was a laughable rumor earlier in the week that Harvin's commitment to the Gators wasn't as solid and that he's still considering Southern Cal. Harvin spent a good portion of the week helping his future teammates recruit Spiller, Smith and Spikes.

"We got Spikes today and we've got a couple more that we're going to get," said Harvin. "I'm going to keep on doing my part. I'll be making some phone calls and telling these guys that they need to be Florida Gators."

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