Another ring for Tebow: QB gets Florida’s top football honor
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Tim Tebow has a bronze statue outside Florida Field and his most memorable quote emblazoned on a plaque a couple hundred feet away. His All-American brick rests nearby, too.
On Saturday, the Gators will honor their most famous quarterback one more time.
Florida will induct Tebow into the program’s Ring of Honor, making him the sixth player with his name prominently and permanently displayed inside the Swamp.
The 22nd-ranked Gators (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) will celebrate Tebow at the end of the first quarter of Saturday’s game against LSU (5-0, 2-0) . At halftime, they will honor the 2008 national championship team that featured Tebow, receiver Percy Harvin, cornerback Joe Haden, linebacker Brandon Spikes and defensive end Carlos Dunlap.
“That was a team that had a lot of talent on it,” said Florida coach Dan Mullen, who was the team’s offensive coordinator a decade ago. “But there’s a lot of teams have talent that don’t always know how to win. That was a team that started and they really learned how to win, how to play for each other, the intensity they went after winning.”
Tebow was Florida’s emotional leader, on and off the field.
The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion finished his college career with 9,285 yards and 88 touchdowns passing to go along with 2,947 yards and an SEC-record 57 scores rushing.
“He was a guy that you would want to have on your team because he would never let anything slide,” said Florida receiver Josh Hammond, whose older brother, Frankie, was a freshman on the 2008 team. “He was a legend here. That’s a guy we respect much. I think everybody on our team respects him.”
Tebow surely will get lots of love Saturday.
His name will be unveiled on the north end zone facade at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, a display about 18-feet wide and 5-feet high that will be next to the five other inductees: linebacker Wilber Marshall, running back Emmitt Smith, 1966 Heisman Trophy winner/former coach Steve Spurrier, 1996 Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel and defensive end Jack Youngblood.
It’s no coincidence Tebow’s ceremony comes during a game against LSU.
Tebow went 3-1 against the Tigers during his four-year college career, and had some memorable moments along the way.
His first jump pass and his first rocker-step pass came in a 23-10 win against LSU in 2006. The following year, LSU students got a hold of Tebow’s cellphone number. Tebow received hundreds of calls and threatening messages — so many that after his first touchdown pass he stared into the LSU crowd and pretended to dial a phone.
The Gators blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost 28-24 in Baton Rouge. They responded with a 30-point victory the following year and eventually won a second national title in three years. They accomplished that despite losing to Mississippi in late September, a setback that prompted Tebow’s famed postgame speech dubbed “The Promise.” The Gators won their next 10, including beating top-ranked Oklahoma 24-14 in the title game.
“There are a lot of great memories, a lot of big games that season,” Mullen said. “Being in those big moments was a lot of fun and being in those big games, it’s a lot of fun to get to do that, to be a part of that.”
Mullen and the Gators are trying to get back there. A win against LSU on Saturday — with Tebow and the rest of the 2008 team watching from the sideline — would be a huge step in the right direction.
“It’s our time now,” safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson said. “We’ve got to set our own legacy. … We got to go out there and produce and have our own legacy out there and just continue to add to the greats like those who were here before.”