Tim Tebow: Blood, Sweat, and a lot of Tears

As Tim Tebow answered questions for the media about his latest award, the 2009 Manning Award, it is hard to believe someone so humble and so giving can make grown men cry. Yet in so many different ways, Tebow has done that. The brute of a quarterback with all the records any football player could ever want, knows how to bring grown men to tears on and off the football field.

Ask former Florida State linebacker Geno Hayes about the last person he'd like to meet on the football field again, and he would probably say Tim Tebow. Hayes was the player that was all over the media before the 2007 Florida-FSU game being quoted about ready to hurt Tebow. Fast forward a few months after the game and Hayes was in rookie camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers being kidded by assistant coaches for the cleat marks Tebow left on his chest after the game.

Twelve months after that game, Tebow was on Bobby Bowden field in Tallahassee. A muddy, soggy field leading his team to victory. In the middle of the second quarter, Tebow ran to the side of Percy Harvin, Florida's dynamic junior playmaker, after Harvin went down with an ankle injury. Tebow ran over to Harvin because of the loud cheers from the stands at the road game at Harvin's injury. The FSU crowd was seemingly overjoyed at knowing they were going to have to face one less weapon in Florida's arsenal. It just seemed to motivate Tebow who turned to the crowd like a championship wrestler and egged them on to make him want to win even more.

He's just a different kind of personality and player than Florida has ever had, maybe anybody has ever had. Tim Tebow gives everything he has on the football field and to his beloved University of Florida and no one can deny that.

Tebow was awarded the 2009 Manning Award last week. It is an award created by the Allstate Sugar Bowl in honor of the college football accomplishments of Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning. It is the only quarterback award that takes into consideration the candidates' bowl performances. The award is voted on by a panel of local and national media, as well as each of the Mannings.

The Mannings won several college football awards themselves and all have had memorable NFL careers with Peyton and Eli still engrossed in prolific careers in the pros. Father Archie was on hand to celebrate Tebow's accomplishments with the media. According to the older Manning, Tebow is one of those once in a lifetime kind of football players.

"...I think he is one of the best football players I have ever seen," Archie Manning would say last week. "There have been greater passers, runners and greater this...but when it comes to overall football player and the ability to lead his team and will his team to win, I just don't think I have ever seen anybody do it better."

That might be the best way anyone can sum up what Tim Tebow does for his team on the field. Coming from a legend like Archie Manning, it says a lot. Still, Tebow does so much more that most don't find out about until after the fact.

Last week the football team was introduced at a Gator basketball game as the 2008 National Champions. Tebow walked out on to the court and with everyone knowing he just had surgery on his shoulder to remove some floating cartilage. Tebow, putting away the pain for a moment, raised both arms in celebration, bringing the crowd to a frenzy. Once off the court, he turned to a prospect that was visiting the Gators officially that weekend and told that prospect how much that hurt, only those few in that immediate vicinity knew at the time. In one small act, he did something to impress both fans and prospects, hence another part of the Tebow legend. He wants to continue the prosperity of the Fl9orida Gators even after he leaves and will help doing it.

He told the media after the Manning Award that his priorities right now are to keep on bringing in talent at Florida and preparing for another championship run.

"I have been busy, but still trying to enjoy it," Tebow said. "It is such a great time and such a great experience and we really want to enjoy it and let it soak it in. At the same time we are busy with recruiting, with getting everything back in order and getting to work and hopefully trying to win another one."

There should be no more question about Tebow's drive. The speech he gave following the Ole Miss game is one that will go down in the history of football as maybe the greatest public motivational speech ever. Tebow vowed a promise and followed through.

"I just want to say one thing," Tebow started after the 31-10 loss to the Rebels. "To the fans and everybody in Gator Nation, I'm sorry, extremely sorry...I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season, and you will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season, and you will never see a team play harder that we will the rest of the season...God bless."

From that point on, the Florida Gators were a different team. Any issues on offense and not scoring points in droves were gone until they faced Alabama and Oklahoma, two very good defenses with well designed schemes to slow Florida down for a great part of each game. Still, the Gators won both games by 10 points or more, both were ranked No. 1 in the country when the Gators played them.

That is why staying focused on repeating as SEC and possibly national champs is not going to be anything Gator fans should be worried about. Tebow addressed it last week as well.

"Always here at the University of Florida, our expectations levels are high," he said. "Our expectation levels of ourselves are higher than anyone can put on us. I think coming off of a Heisman Trophy the pressure was already there. I think we are used to handling that and I am used to handling that. I think we just need to stay focused on taking it one game at a time and play with passion, enthusiasm, and love for the game every time we step out there. (We need to) not let the hype get to us and the pressure get to us and just go out there and play the game we love."

He also knows that each and every teammate and himself can get better and will strive to do that.

"I think there is room for improvement, for maturity," he said. "I think there is room for competitive excellence among our team and in different players. You will see different guys step up and be better and more mature. I think we will have a great off-season and be prepared coming into next year."

The Gators return 19 of 24 starters for a return chance at a national title. Harvin was the lone starter that decided he needed to take his talent to the NFL. The Gators will find a way to replace Harvin next year. No knock on the talent that John Brantley brings as a quarterback to Florida, but getting Tebow to return makes the Gators the prohibitive favorite to repeat in 2009.

Archie Manning believes Tebow made the best decision for him and the rest of his life.

"I think it is a great decision," Manning said of Tebow's return. "Tim will find this out next year there are so many things that are great about being a senior. I remember Peyton saying he wanted to be a senior and a captain and wanted to do all of those things that seniors get to do. Plus, he has established on the football field such a legacy at Florida and they would understand if he left. But, I can assure you that people think just a little more and they will remember the loyalty he is showing to the Gator nation right now. I commend him for what he is doing and I hope it just works great for him."

Tebow gave all the right reasons for wanting to come back. Not many had to do with his own personal goals.

"There were a lot of things that went into it, but when it came down to it, I just wanted to be loyal to Coach Meyer and the University of Florida," he said. "I love being here and it's been a joy for me. I just want to finish what I started here and be loyal to all these guys and my coaches."

The Gators celebrated the National Championship on January 11 in from to of about 45,000 fans in The Swamp. That day had a lot of loud cheers, but none as loud as when Tebow made the announcement he would return. Of course, he made everyone a little uneasy leading up to the announcement. Again, it was all about momentum and adrenaline and his passion for all things football and Gator.

"I want to thank Coach Meyer for the opportunity to be a Florida Gator," Tim said to the large crowd that day. "I love him like a father figure. Thanks to all the coaches and the players, I love you guys. Thanks for all the great memories.

"I want to thank all the fans, you are unbelievable. You come out and support us, win or lose, good or bad, I just love you so much. I am a Gator fan myself, so I love Gator Nation.

"I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You can do all things through Christ. Thank You God Bless and I appreciate you so much."

Then Tebow turns to walk away under a little bit of softer applause as he seemingly ended his speech. Suddenly he puts the microphone back to his mouth and with a yell says, "By the way, one more thing...Let's do it again. I'm coming back!!!"

The crowd erupted for the loudest and longest cheer of the day.

One person in the crowd that was jumping up and down and yelling upon hearing Tebow say he was coming back, was Steven Watson. Watson threw both hands in the air and screamed as loud as he could at the good news. When he was done, he turned around and wiped his face full of streaming tears.

I teased Watson about the tears after seeing quite a few others do the same. His response, "I don't care, I love that kid. What is not to love about him."

It is time to quit questioning Tebow. Gator fans don't and never have. However, there are people that publicly critique pro prospects and say that Tebow is not going to be a pro quarterback. Knowing Tim Tebow and all he has done at the university of Florida and beforehand, I can tell you...hey you are just wrong.

"I feel we have a great quarterback coach here that knows a lot about the next level and a lot about quarterback play," Tebow said about Scot Loeffler who will be his new position coach at Florida. "I am going to stand back and do everything with him, working with him on a lot of things to prepare myself for the next level. More importantly, prepare my team for an opportunity to be successful this year and go accomplish our goals which is to win another SEC Championship and put ourselves in position for another national championship.

"I am not exactly sure with whatever happens (about his pro prospects). I am excited about it. I'll will work harder than anybody in the country to succeed at it. Hopefully, somebody gives me the opportunity and whatever they tell me to work on I will work extremely hard at that. Whether it is pocket presence or mechanics and throwing I will work on it and do my best to be successful at it. I don't know what will happen, but I know whoever takes a shot at me I will work extremely hard in doing that. I will work hard and give my whole heart."

That sounds a lot like another promise that was made earlier. You better believe, he won't fail at that promise either. His passion about what he loves is enough to make you believe...and cry.

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