An appreciation of Tim Tebow

I was never a Tim Tebow fan.

From the first time I saw him play during his freshman year, relieving Florida quarterback Chris Leak and being “the change of pace” for the offense in goal-line packages, he just irked me.

Four years later, I’ve become a little less irked.

Why? Maybe it’s because of the many uplifting — even soothing — Tim Teeee-boooo declarations from CBS announcer Verne Lundquist after a big run or a touchdown. Or maybe it’s just because Alabama head coach Nick Saban annoys me even more.

But on the heels of his final home game, and as the Florida quarterback gets set to play in his final SEC game, I’ve finally come around on Mr. Superman/Mr. Christian/Mr. GQ/ Mr. Everything Tim Tebow.

I can’t say that I’m proud of ever rooting against Tebow and his Gators most Saturdays the past four seasons. But for every non-Florida fan out there, you can understand why I probably did.

I thought at first that I was just feeling the scorn of Gators head coach Urban Meyer saying no to Notre Dame — the first time. But that wasn’t it.

With Tebow, it was different. I always felt he was gimmicky from his very first snap at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville in 2006. Perhaps I was still in the mode of only caring about a player’s pro prospects — boy, was I wrong about him four years later. Say what you want about whether he can make the necessary throws, but there’s a place for him next year somewhere at the next level.

The hatred — sorry, strong dislike — truly began in the LSU game his freshman year, when he “jump passed” the Gators past the Tigers. I’ll admit I’m a big fan of Les Miles and the entire program down in Baton Rouge, so that loss stung a bit. It also was a frightening foreshadowing to what was yet to come:

2007: 51 total touchdowns, shattering my boyhood hero Danny Wuerffel’s SEC record for touchdowns accounted for in a single season (42). He then captured the Heisman Trophy over Darren McFadden, my favorite player from that season, becoming the first underclassman to ever win the award. He then added four more TDs in a bowl loss to Michigan, finishing with an astounding 55.

2008: After appearing on the cover of Men’s Fitness magazine in September, rendering jealous all the girlfriends of the Common College Man across the country, Tebow picked up where he left off and nearly won the Heisman again in leading the Gators to the national title. At this point, I thought Tebow had had enough of college and would enter the draft. Instead, he announced he would return for his senior season.

Enter this year, when my venom was at an all-time high, as every preseason college football discussion centered on Tebow and the Gators — even more so than the typical defending national champion entering a new season. I was hoping for a loss early to quiet the storm, but then I noticed that Charleston Southern and Troy were on the schedule. When the Gators survived Baton Rouge, I knew we were looking at an undefeated season until the SEC title game — which brings me to the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Top-ranked ‘Bama held a 20-17 lead entering the fourth quarter in last year’s conference title game before Tebow ran, threw, willed and thrilled the Gators to a fourth-quarter comeback victory en route to their national championship. It was yet another career-defining game for Tebow, who had a career record of 0-5 when his team trailed in the second half.

It was Tebow magic all over again.

So I’m naturally rooting for the boys from Tuscaloosa to send Tebow a crushing late-season defeat to blemish his stellar college career, right?

Dead wrong.

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I’m going to miss you, Tim Tebow.

I’m going to miss watching you carry your team on your back and lower your shoulder to gain the tough yards.

I’ll miss the cheerleading on the sideline during garbage time while your team is rolling to a 62-3 season-opening victory.

I’ll miss the national praise, the camera panning to your parents every five minutes in the stands and the bromance you have with Urban Meyer.

I’ll miss it because you’ve epitomized what college football should be about every Saturday. I consider myself a bit of a pessimist by nature, but I honestly don’t doubt that your sentiments are genuine when discussing your time at Florida, your family or your spirituality.

Maybe my epiphany occurred when I saw Tebow get knocked out by Kentucky defensive end Taylor Wyndham, but I'm now a devout follower of Tebow Nation.

You may get sick of his signature “God bless” salute to conclude interviews, or you may be tired of seeing networks replay his postgame declaration after the Ole Miss loss last season. You may even want to see him suffer just for being seen with ridiculously good-looking women at college parties. But the fact remains, there really won’t be another Tim Tebow for a long long time, if ever.

Even though it took me three-plus years to realize it, I’m glad it’s not too late.

Dave Miller is the Web Manager of the National Football Post. You can follow him on Twitter at Miller_Dave.

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