HE15MAN

One way or another, history was going to be made on Saturday night. The Heisman Trophy was going to be handed to a school that never had a winner, or it was going to a sophomore. After all the votes were tallied, the latter circumstance prevailed and Florida's Tim Tebow hoisted the coveted trophy.

"It's historical," UF athletic director Jeremy Foley said. "He's a sophomore and won convincingly. But even if it was one vote, it didn't matter. We just wanted him to win."

Tim Tebow exuded class and humility throughout the season, and Saturday night was no different. The sophomore edged SEC colleague Darren McFadden who finished second for the second straight year in a row and captured the University of Florida's third Heisman. After the announcement, Tebow thanked everyone from God to his parents to the Florida coaches to his high school coaches and even listed his offensive linemen by name.

"You take a good quarterback and eliminate the good receivers he has around him and an offensive line that only allowed a handful of sacks in the last couple of games and Tim's not bringing that trophy home," head coach Urban Meyer said. "The first ones he recognized after his family was his teammates. That means a lot to a coach and it means he was brought up the right way. Football is still the ultimate team game. That's an individual award that the team is responsible for."

For the first time ever, none of the Heisman finalists came from a team ranked in the top five, and yet Tebow made it clear that it was just as much as his teammate's award as it was his. Before Tebow accepted the award, he hugged the three other finalists, his parents, Urban Meyer and then received a huge hug from Danny Wuerffel who welcomed him to the stage.

"It's just a great opportunity for him," Wuerffel said. "He is such a good kid and he's going to represent well. I'm just so happy for him."

"It was really special to have Danny Wuerffel as the first guy to hug," Tebow said. "He was a role model for me growing up and it was real special for me."

Earlier in the week, Tebow had been called out by Hawaii head coach June Jones who said he was just a product of a system. Jones was obviously stumping for his own quarterback Colt Brennan who finished third in the voting, but it was a comment that Tebow and Meyer wanted to take to task on Saturday night.

"I don't believe it's the style of offense because the national championship offense was much different than this year's," Meyer said. "It is strictly personnel. You get a good group of receivers, a good offensive line and some good balance in there."

"I think more and more teams are going to go to the spread option offense because it puts such a bind on defenses with the pass and the run," Tebow said. "It stretches them not just vertically, but horizontally. It's a great offense, but you have to have great coaches and I'm blessed with great coaches in coach [Dan] Mullen and coach Meyer. They do a great job, and you have to have great coaches to run the offense."

It was Tebow's seven touchdown performance at South Carolina that propelled him to the top of most voter's ballots. The Gators were coming off a win against Vanderbilt, but before that, they had lost three of four games. They needed a win to keep their SEC East hopes alive, and it was the first game that Tebow was completely healthy after bruising his right shoulder against Kentucky. After the trip to Columbia, both Tebow and Meyer sensed the Heisman could be in the future.

"After South Carolina I thought I had a chance, but I really didn't think about it until after the season," Tebow said. "After the season we worked a little more on it, but we were just trying to stay focused."

"The South Carolina game is when you start thinking about this might happen," Meyer said. "The number one thing you have to look at is his 56 percent third down conversion rate. That tells you what kind of quarterback he is. Whether it be 3rd-and-15 and he scrambles or hits Bubba Caldwell on third down with pressure in his face. That's the money down and that tells you that he's tremendous."

He clinched it with a touchdown run against in-state rival Florida State where he narrowly avoided a sack. But it's that play, that Meyer also can point to and show that Tebow is not a product of a system.

"Everybody wants a guy that can get you out of a jam," Meyer said. "Tim made a lot of plays on his own. You see that play against FSU where he made two guys miss and then ran three people over going into the end zone. It wasn't a well-coached play. It had nothing to do with system or style or anything like that. It has to do with a playmaker making a play."

Tebow's size, strength and ability is what won him the Heisman, and it has college coaches across the nation scrambling to find a quarterback with Tebow-like talent. They're hard to find and the Florida coaching staff knows how lucky they are to have found him.

"Greg Mattison recruited Timmy," Meyer said. "He made a comment to me when we were getting on a plane to fly back from Pennsylvania of all places after seeing a recruit. We had just beaten FSU, and I asked him what he thought of Tim who was going to announce the next day. He said if we don't get him, it will set our program back 10-15 years. I said, ‘it will not, we'll be fine.' He said, ‘no we won't, we need Tim Tebow.' I remember that like it was yesterday."

Since then, the Gators have won an SEC Championship, a National Championship and now Tebow has a Heisman. Last year's team success was credited more to quarterback Chris Leak than Tebow, so even though Tebow had an unbelievable sophomore season, there's still plenty of motivation to achieve even more in 2008.

"I'm not finished with this year yet," Tebow said. "I'm going to just get ready for Michigan. I need to work on a lot of things, including my decision-making is what I'll work on most of all."

Whatever Tebow's Gator future holds, he is already one of the most decorated in UF history. There may never be another player in Florida history who will have his uniform painted on the façade at The Swamp and has all but clinched a spot in the Gators' Ring of Honor before the end of his sophomore season.

"That will be awesome to have it up there in The Swamp," Tebow said. "It's an unbelievable thing to come back and see it there for the rest of your life. I don't know what it means right know, but I'm looking forward to finding out. I just think it's awesome that you're known forever as a Heisman Trophy winner. It's an honor and it's overwhelming."

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Chris Chmielenski


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