“Come on Aaron, another article on Tim Tebow. I need that about as much as Rosie O'Donnell needs a trip to Golden Corral.”
I feel your pain. Believe me. But considering there are roughly 281,722 guys out there with a sports website, blog, podcast or radio show, and considering that I watch more college football than roughly 281,720 of them, I feel like I should speak up. Partly because I can’t remember a single more polarizing player in all my years following the NFL Draft, and don’t know if we’ll ever have one as polarizing again.
So here goes. Here's my very best attempt at an unbiased on the guy:
Looking back on everything, it's weird, because of all the sports I watch (And believe, if there's a ball, a bat, grass, dirt or Erin Andrews, I'm watching), I rarely, rarely remember seeing or hearing about a guy for the first time. Sure I've become a little jaded, but the truth is, that in the world we live in, we usually know the best high school basketball players by their sophomore or junior years of high school and the best baseball players by the time they reach Single A, if not sooner. Football is no different, especially now that college football recruiting is a 365 day a year, hundred million dollar industry (If not more).
Therefore, by the time a guy steps on a college campus or Major League diamond, I feel like I already know him, and have an opinion on him. Whether that's fair or not, I really don't know.
But Tebow was different.
He got to Florida off Urban Meyer's first, 9-3 season in the Swamp. Chris Leak was the starter. And other than reading a brief blip stating that another top quarterback prospect (Jevan Snead), decided to opt out of his committment to Florida once Tebow was on board, I really knew nothing about the guy. Ask any true college football fan and they'll tell you that quite honestly, in the fall of 2006, Matthew Stafford at Georgia and Mitch Mustain at Arkansas had way more hype than Tebow did.
The first time that Tebow and Florida went to Rocky Top to play Tennessee his freshman year, that all changed.
Again, Chris Leak was the starter. But every so often, Florida would bring in Tebow, this kid, who'd sprint to the huddle like a 12-year-old, call a play and hustle to the line. Again, he was just a kid, and you could see the excitement and energy coming out of his pores, like a puppy off the leash for the first time.
That year and that night, no matter what "play," (And I use that term loosely) was called in the huddle, everyone knew Tebow was keeping the ball on a run. It was the worst kept secret in college football. But worst kept secret or not, the kid always got the first down. He was a human battering ram. He was also one bad dude.
After that game, everybody, even the most casual of college football fans knew they were in for something special. My friends and I rearranged our schedules and made every Florida game must see TV viewing. I remember when Florida hosted LSU a few weeks later, yelling and screaming, and serenading the TV with a "TEEEEEEEEEBOW," every time the kid came into my game. Keep in mind, this was from the comfort of my couch, and absolutely horrified my girlfriend at the time. I tried my best to explain to her, "He's just different." I don't think she really understood, and we ended up breaking up a few months later. All these years later, I'm not sure if that's a coincidence or not.
But back to Tebow. As the years went on, we saw him grow and mature, and mellow out a little bit, again like a dog growing from a restless puppy, into a settled adult.
He took the reigns at Florida his sophomore year, and won another his second championship as a junior. His game changed a bit over that time, as he became a little more refined, and wasn't quite the battering ram from his first year. Although- probably to his detriment- he always trusted his legs a bit more than his arm.
Now, I'm not an NFL talent evaluator, and never claim to be. And honestly, when I watched Tebow this year, I never once thought to myself, "This guy looks like an NFL QB." He took too much time in the huddle, his passes were ducks, and, ohhhhh the throwing motion. Sometimes it was like staring at an eclipse, you knew your eyes were going to hurt, but you just couldn't look away.
But here's the thing. Despite all that, despite a senior season that many-including myself- saw as a regression, the guy still won 13 games. 13! Some were pretty, some not so much, but when you go 26-2 as a starter in a two year period, you're doing something right.
And that's my biggest point: The kid is a winner. He's won everywhere he's gone. He's willed his team to victory in the fourth quarter and first, rain and shine, home and road. Whatever.
Fast forward to Thursday...
As I sat down to watch ESPN's approximately 927 hours of continuing coverage on the draft this week, I thought Kirk Herbstreit hit on the head, what I as a college football fan had been thinking during this whole process. He said:
"In the 15 years I've been doing College Gameday I've never seen a guy effect EVERYTHING, the way Tebow does. The home crowds, opposing crowds, his whole team, the other team."
Herbie went on, "Nobody works harder, nobody cares more..."
Then he was cute off by the NFL studio guys, when Cris Carter rudely (At least I thought), dismissed Herbstreit's years of college football knowledge by saying,
"Look, as a former player in the NATIONAL...FOOTBALL...LEAGUE, I don't care about your work ethic. Everybody works hard. I care about whether as a quarterback you can get the me the ball, so that we can win games, and I can get paid."
With all due respect to you Mr. Carter, you're wrong. I'm sorry, but you're wrong.
I've seen, read and heard every feature written on Tebow these last few years, and nobody, NOBODY works harder than this guy. In the film room, and class room, the weight room, and off the field. Tebow was on a roster filled with NFL guys these last four years, and it was he they turned to, he which was the sounding board, and person that everyone believed in and rallied behind.
It's like I told my beautiful girlfriend (Bless her heart, I wasn't easy to put up with) all these years ago "Tebow is just different."
I don't care what all your years in the NATIONAL...FOOTBALL...LEAGUE tell you, there are certain things that just don't show up on film and in scouting reports. Things like character, work ethic, and will to win.
JaMarcus Russell was one of the most physically gifted players- not just quarterbacks, but players- that I've ever seen when he entered the league a few years ago. But I'm not so sure the guy doesn't care more about where the party is after the game, more than anything that goes on during it. If everything was about what showed up on film and in scouting reports, JaMarcus Russell would be on his way to a Hall of Fame career. Instead, I wouldn't be surprised if I saw him on some Juice Machine infommercial within the next five years.
Again, I'm not a talent evaluator, and would never claim to be. I'm just a fan. I know that Tebow doesn't "look," like an NFL quarterback, but if you want to dismiss him about that, just know this: Over the course of his college career, Tebow's teams beat teams quarterbacked by Russell, Stafford and Sam Bradford. Three guys who just happen to be three of the last four No. 1 overall picks. Those three may have "looked," like quarterbacks to you and I, but when push came to shove, they went 1-4 against Tebow quarterbacked teams (Stafford had the sole win, in Tebow's sophomore year).
So I know Tebow doesn't look the part. And I know it's going to take some time, and a whole lot of energy. Nobody is disputing that.
But at the same time, if I needed to win one game tomorrow, it'd be hard to bet against Tebow.
The guy is just different.
A few other random NFL Draft thoughts...
1. I really, didn't like the Sam Bradford pick. Sorry, just didn't.
As I discussed at length in Tuesday's podcast with Allen Kenney of BlatantHomerism.com, the guy is coming off a major shoulder injury, and hasn't played significant minutes in almost two years. In 2008 when he won the Heisman Trophy, he did it behind what was essentially an NFL offensive line in college, and finished most games with less dirt on his uniform than the backup punter.
All I'm saying is that if you're going to use a No. 1 overall pick and the guaranteed money that comes with, you better take a sure thing.
I like Bradford, I'm just not sure he's a sure thing.
(And by the way, when you're team coming off a 1-15, I don't care if it's a quarterback, defensive tackle or foreign, left footed kicker, just do yourself a favor and take the best player. Please? Ndamokoung Suh was that all year long. So why didn't he go No. 1 again?)
2. My favorite pick of the draft was Rolando McClain to Oakland at No. 8. I loved, loved, loved the pick.
Again, if you're the Raiders, you just need good football players. But more importantly you need guys who are committed to hard work and winning, and trying to change the culture around the organization. You need leaders.
Please, if you don't follow college football, just watch this video.
McClain is a winner to the highest degree, almost the defensive version of Tebow, with a little more natural talent. He was the one guy in this draft that I truly believed can not only make an impact with his talent on the field, but bring the best out of others too. That's kinda all he's been doing at Alabama the last three years.
I don't get to say this often, but the Raiders made a great pick.
3. I'm not going to say anything about Eric Berry to the Chiefs. Just watch this video . I don't care what the etiquette is on taking a safety in the top five picks. Berry isn't just any random safety.
4. As far as C.J. Spiller to the Bills...Well... I'll just leave you with what I tweeted right after the pick:
"How soon until C.J. Spiller pulls a hammy on a brisk, -10 degree afternoon in Buffalo? A week? 10 days?"
Gotta love the Bills.