Tebow needs a new throw
I'll admit it, he had me fooled. Tim Tebow, All-American; I thought
he was Mr. Perfect. I was blinded by the warm glow emanating from
my TV these past four years during Florida Gators games. The two
college football national championships, the Heisman Trophy, the
way he changed the lives of the sportscasters who met with him
before his games. Even in defeat, he uttered words you could put on
a plaque (and somebody did). Even embarrassing
none-of-your-business questions from sportswriters about his, um,
love life were turned into feel-good moments. Even his
"controversial" commercial was endearing. Good grief! Could anyone
really be this good?
Well, no. Of course not. We now know that one of the college game's greatest quarterbacks has at least one skeleton in his closet, one appalling personal flaw. Apparently he has a throwing motion which could frighten small children. (Not to mention – with the combine, individual workouts and Draft looming – make grown-up NFL front-office types nervous, too.)
But thankfully Tebow, being Tebow, has vowed to make this right. He's attacking this with the same intensity with which he pushed his Gators to come back from the 2008 loss to Ole Miss (see: the plaque, above). He's assembled an all-star team of coaches (wasn't Sam Wyche running for city council somewhere?), and promised to redeem his release.
But can Tebow – even Tebow! – really change the way he's naturally thrown a football all his life? I've likened it to a golfer at the top of his game retooling his swing from scratch, which would sound like a crackpot theory, if esteemed golf coach Butch Harmon hadn't called back to say he agreed.
Harmon was with Tiger Woods when Woods was determined to remake his swing after winning the 1997 Masters. "It took him 18 months before he felt really comfortable with it in tournament competition," Harmon said. Of course, that's total. That doesn't mean he wasn't still Tiger in the meantime. But it was a process. It was frustrating. There were stops and starts. "You have to be a very focused and almost stubborn individual to continue with the process," Harmon said. "A lot of people wouldn't stick with it."
He thinks Tebow will. So does Steve Johnson, co-founder of Hank Haney Golf, Inc., and an instructor with Haney for more than 20 years. Let me go through my notes and find the word they both used … oh, yeah, here it is: "Easy."
Really? Well, there's easy, and then there's easy. "It's very easy in practice," Harmon said. (And isn't that what an individual pro day workout is? A practice?) But, both golf guys say, with elite athletes who are coachable, who possess elite-level will, it's not even a question. It can happen.
But that begs this question. If it's not that big a deal, how did he get here? My wife won't let me out of the house without saying, "Are you wearing that shirt?" How is it Team Tebow sent him out into the cold, cruel world with a windup like that before now?
Maybe, with Tebow reaching mythic proportions as is, there were other, more pressing concerns to think about, with Auburn coming up. Maybe they, too, thought Tebow would simply go on to be a tight end-type in the pros. Maybe Tebow himself didn't realize his limitations until the Senior Bowl exposed his mechanics. Whatever. The world knows he isn't perfect now. He knows it too.
The challenge before him? "It's not that hard," Johnson said. "Especially for the guy that you're focusing on. A lot of it has to do with his faith and a lot of it has to do with his understanding of where he is and where he needs to be. I think it will be easy for him because I think he knows he needs to change."
(Sounds like he's had a football intervention, doesn't it?)
Harmon expects immediate improvement in the short term. The hardest part will be sticking with it; the hardest part is not reverting back. Johnson cites several steps in changing your swing: Rehearsing it slowly, rehearsing it in practice, executing it in practice, executing it in games, executing it in competition under pressure situations.
The first step will be March 17, Tebow's individual pro day. The myth has been busted, the glow broken. A long way to go. We'll see what his swing looks like in 18 months.
Kalani Simpson is an award-winning journalist who has earned national recognition as a sports columnist at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and editor at Nebraska Sports America magazine.