Meyer's Got his Guy

Florida fans don't want to think about what might have been, but Gator quarterback Tim Tebow was almost wearing Alabama Crimson. Instead the extremely talented quarterback went to the school he grew up rooting for and the rest is history.

Both Alabama and Florida have had their own share of trials and tribulations since Tebow's announcement. The Gators have a win against the Tide and a national championship with Tebow wearing the Orange and Blue. Yet, three years later, the two teams are on a collision course that will determine which team has the right to play for this year's national championship.

Former Gator defensive line coach Greg Mattison used to coordinate the Jacksonville area and helped recruit Tebow with head coach Urban Meyer. While the Gators were in a battle with then-Bama coach Mike Shula, Mattison knew the significance of landing Tebow.

"Greg Mattison and I were sitting on a plane in Pennsylvania recruiting someone," Meyer said. "It was the day before decision day and Alabama was with Tim and on a 12-hour home visit. I got a play-by-play with his high school coach. I was in someone else's home and I did a terrible job because I was on the phone with someone else the entire time. The plane leaves about 10 at night and the family is still there with the coaches with Alabama.

"I get on the plane and we have Plan-B in place to recruit someone else. I had convinced myself that if we lose him we will still be okay. Greg Mattison looks at me and says, 'you do realize that if we don't get Tim, it will set the program back ten years.' I said, 'Shut up.' He said, 'Ten years.' I just got so upset with him and grabbed a blanket and wouldn't talk with him the rest of the trip. But, he was right."

Meyer may have Tebow's family and former Nease head coach Craig Howard to thank for helping to nudge Tebow to Gainesville, but Meyer also knows how close he was to not getting the standing Heisman Trophy winner.

"I think his high school coach had a lot to do with it," Meyer said. "I think Craig Howard and (Tim's family), but they certainly didn't push him. If you know Craig Howard and his family, they are such good people. They wanted Tim to make his own decision, but I think they all wanted him here."

Meyer believes the Gators trailed Alabama in recruiting Tebow throughout most of the process.

"There are some people that have allegiance to a school and I think he does, but his relationships are deeper than that," Meyer said. "He's a Gator and all that but he's a relationship person. He had a very good and long relationship with the previous staff and coach and obviously Alabama is a fine place. I'd say we were behind most of the time in the recruiting effort and I am just glad we got him. It was a tough deal."

Now, Meyer occasionally finds himself on the sidelines wondering if he's watching one of the greatest players to ever play college football.

"I catch myself doing that a lot," Meyer said. "On Saturday, I found myself doing that watching him manage that game. That two-minute drill, Dan Mullen did a heck of a job, too. I'm the one who said do this, do this, and I was almost vetoing it."

Tebow was a perfect 5-of-5 on a drive that covered 76 yards in 1:03 to give Florida a 28-9 lead. Meyer said it was raining so hard during that you could barely see the footage on the game film.

Tebow has played lights out since the loss to Ole Miss and his emotional address to the media and Gator fans after the game. He struggled just a bit at the beginning of the season, and Meyer thinks that for the only time in his life, he realized how big of a star he was.

"I think one time it hit him, early in the year," Meyer said. "He's playing at a high level, his management in that game. Just imagine playing that football game and getting 500 yards of offense against the No.3 defense in the nation. I walked onto that field and my foot sank six inches into that sod. You can have Heismans and Player of the Year awards, but as far as managing that game, we've got our guy."


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