College football legend Tim Tebow wowed fans as the lead guy in Urban Meyer’s spread offense that dominated college football in the 2000s. His short but memorable NFL career reminded us of Tebow’s college greatness and introduced the world to Tebowing. Let’s take a look at Tebow’s one-of-a-kind career.
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Thriving as a homeschooled athlete in high school
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Tim Tebow was homeschooled throughout grade school while his parents instilled strong Christian values. And he lit it up at Allen D. Nease High School. The show-stopping quarterback prospect rose to prominence and committed to the University of Florida to continue his athletic career.
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BCS National Champion as a freshman
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Tebow spent his freshman year as the Gators’ backup quarterback. Tebow didn’t play a lot. When he saw the field, he was primarily used as a running back, bulldozing his way to 469 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. In his freshman year, the Gators went 13-1 and won the BCS National Championship Game. Not a bad start to your college career.
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First sophomore to win the Heisman
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Tebow was handed the keys to the offense in his sophomore year. He mastered Gators head coach Urban Meyer’s spread offense to perfection. Tebow put up ridiculous numbers in 2007. He launched 3,286 passing yards and 23 touchdowns. A threat on the ground, he ran for 895 yards and found the end zone 23 times. When it was all said and done, Tebow became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. His signature “Heisman moment” was a seven-touchdown performance against the South Carolina Gamecocks. The Gators capped Tebow’s historic season by losing in the Capital One Bowl.
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And winning another BCS National Championship
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While Tebow had already won a national championship as a true freshman, he still hadn’t reached college football immortality as the top dawg. Doing so would do wonders for his legacy. He had this goal circled at the top of his list in his junior year. Tebow became a campus celebrity, passing for 2,746 yards and 30 touchdowns to go along with 673 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. The Gators won the SEC Championship and then the BCS National Championship with Tebow at the helm. The 2008 Gators outmanned and outgunned all their opponents, and Tebow finally got his championship cigar as the starter.
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Tebow’s senior year
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In the blink of an eye, Tebow was a senior at Florida. He led the Gators to a 13-1 record as he tossed for 2,895 yards and 21 touchdowns. One of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, Tebow barreled his way forward for 910 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Gators made it to the Sugar Bowl. Tebow logged 482 passing yards and three touchdowns and 51 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground in his last dance as the formidable Gators trounced over the Cincinnati Bearcats, 51-24.
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What a ride it was
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Tebow gave the University of Florida a lot to party about over his storied college career. He holds numerous SEC and Florida Gators records. He’s one of the most decorated college football players of his era. He’ll always be a campus legend in Gainsville, Florida.
James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
Maybe the most memorable moment of Tebow’s time with the Gators was winning the 2008 BCS National Championship. The team is full of familiar names. The now-disgraced Urban Meyer had passing grades as a college football head coach but flunked out with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Former NFL MVP Cam Newton was Tebow’s backup. Big names such as Percy Harvin, Aaron Hernandez, Riley Cooper, Maurkice Pouncey, Carlos Dunlap, Brandon Spikes, and Joe Haden started here. The 2008 Gators deserve their own documentary.
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Tebow was seen as a high-risk, high-reward prospect heading into the 2010 NFL Draft. The Denver Broncos selected Tebow 25th overall in the first round. The stocky 6-foot-3, 255-pound quarterback was a backup for much of his rookie year. When he did see the field, it was for the wildcat formation. Tebow nabbed his first career NFL start in Week 15. He finished the day with 138 passing yards and a touchdown. The Broncos limped to a 4-12 record as head coach Josh McDaniels was fired after the disastrous season.
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Leading the Broncos to division title
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Tebow was the backup quarterback yet again in 2011. After a 1-3 start, Kyle Orton was benched in favor of Tebow, who spearheaded the Broncos to an 8-8 record and their first division title since 2005. Tebow was a gunslinger, passing for 1,729 yards and 12 touchdowns. On the ground, he galloped for 660 yards and six touchdowns.
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Tebowing became a cultural sensation in the early 2010s. Whether Tebow was in a pre-game ritual or celebrating a big play, he could be found Tebowing at any moment. Tebowing is when a person gets down on one knee and appears to pray. Tebowing was how Tebow honored his Christian faith. It became Tebow’s signature move and a pop cultural phenomenon.
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Quarterback controversy in New York
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The Denver Broncos signed Peyton Manning in 2012. The upset victory over the Steelers wasn’t enough to keep Tebow in Denver, who was shipped away to the New York Jets for an array of draft picks. The Jets’ initial plan was to use Tebow on special teams and in the wildcat offense. Instead, Tebow’s mere presence in the Big Apple sparked a quarterback controversy whenever Mark Sanchez played poorly. Tebow saw limited action as the Jets ended their circus season with a 6-10 record.
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Calls to switch positions ignored
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Several analysts and fans alike were rooting for Tebow to switch positions. The options were endless for Tebow, who had the skill set necessary for running back, fullback, tight end, and return man or gunner on special teams. Given his low career passer rating (75.3) and eyebrow-raising inaccuracy (47.9 completion percentage), the calls to switch positions made sense. Tebow was a great athlete. It felt like he could really thrive in the NFL in a different position. Had Tebow made the change, it could’ve been similar to Swiss army knife Taysom Hill and his success with the New Orleans Saints. But Tebow stuck with it and kept throwing the ball.
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Training camp arm for the New England Patriots
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The New England Patriots signed Tebow with the goal of turning him into a serviceable backup to Tom Brady. He was officially reunited with Josh McDaniels, his rookie-year head coach, and saw reps as a training camp arm with the Patriots. After a strong showing in the preseason, Tebow was cut from the team at the end of training camp.
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The Philadelphia Eagles took a chance on Tebow in 2015. They wanted to see if the stocky quarterback had anything left in the tank. Tebow looked solid in Chip Kelly’s read-option attack. It looked as if Kelly was going to keep him on the team as a gadget quarterback for the wildcat formation and goal-line situations. But in the end, Tebow was cut yet again.
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Giving baseball a swing
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Tebow struggled to make an NFL team’s roster, but he came into his own on the baseball diamond. When the ink dried on Tebow’s minor league contract with the New York Mets, a lifelong dream was turned into reality. Tebow played for several of the Mets’ affiliates, most recently the Syracuse Mets. He became a regular at their spring training and was invited to the Mets’ major league camp in 2018.
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Tebow thrives as an analyst
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Tebow became a football analyst on the SEC Network’s SEC Nation. He also appears regularly on ESPN’s college football segments. Tebow found a home as one of college football’s best analysts.
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Life outside of football
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Off the gridiron, Tebow was showered with a wave of endorsements in his playing days. Now that he has his feet kicked back in retirement, Tebow has become a best-selling author. In the romance department, he married model Demi-Leigh Tebow in 2020.
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Tebow the tight end?
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When Urban Meyer became the Jacksonville Jaguars head coach, he knew he was going to need some help to kickstart the rebuilding process. Meyer got it from a familiar face in a strange role. He signed Tebow as a tight end to turn him into rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s safety valve. Tebow didn’t make the 53-man roster. It felt like the experiment was 10 years too late. This was Tebow’s last job in professional sports as of this writing. Meyer was fired in December 2021.
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A college football legend
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Practically everyone knows the lore of Tim Tebow: the college football legend at Florida who burned out in the NFL after just three years. While he never duplicated his college success in the NFL, Tebow is still a Heisman Winner and two-time national champion. His tough-and-rumble playing style was a joy to watch, and his NFL days are better than fans remember. His lone playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers is an NFL classic. The sky is the limit for Tebow as he enters the second act of his life.
David J. Hunt is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. He ran cross country at Penn State, became a volunteer firefighter during COVID-19, and is a self taught journalist. He’s a diehard Philly sports fan. When he isn’t watching sports, he enjoys working out, fishing, and traveling. You can find more of his writing at The Chestnut Hill Local and The Temple News. You can follow him on Twitter at @dave_hunt44.
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