Tim Tebow's Swan Song in The Swamp; Gator Nation Bids Farewell

James Walker@BRJamesWalkerAnalyst IINovember 25, 2009

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 21: Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Florida Gators celebrates a 62 - 3 victory  against the Florida International University Golden Panthers, November 21, 2009 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

During a press conference this week, Florida coach Urban Meyer paused several times as he answered questions about Tim Tebow and the effect he has had on Meyer's family and college football.

Meyer was overcome with emotion, and as I watched, I reflected on all the great moments Tebow has brought to Gator Nation.

My first memory was during Chris Leak's senior season in 2006 when the student section chanted Tebow's name, calling for him to enter the game.

I remember all the hype that surrounded "The Chosen One," but hearing the students chanting his name during the first game of the season made me wonder:

How good is this kid, Tim Tebow?

Soon it became customary for Leak to trot off the field as Tebow entered the game. Everyone knew the ball was not leaving his hands, and he was going to rush straight ahead while taking a lineman or two with him.

That is, until the National Championship game against Ohio State.

With 23 seconds left in the second quarter, in came Tebow, and the Ohio State defense prepped, thinking Tebow was going to lunge in for another score.

Instead, Tebow rolled left and quickly threw a one-yard pass to Andre Caldwell for a TD. That pass was an arrow shot through the hearts of Buckeye Nation.

It was also the coronation of Tim Tebow as King of Gator Nation.

Yes, Chris Leak won the MVP for the 2006 National Championship game, and as he walked off into the Arizona sunset, Gator Nation was already prepared for Tebow to take over the reins of the Gator football program.

When the 2007 season began, Tebow began his mission to become possibly the greatest college football player in history.

Tebow's 2007 season was historical. He was the first QB in college football history to both pass and rush for over 20 TDs in one season.

Those stats compelled voters to select Tebow as the first sophomore to ever win the Heisman Trophy. He would become the third Gator to win it, joining Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel.

Then came the magical 2008 season. The Florida Gators were firing on all cylinders up until the Ole Miss game in The Swamp.

The Gators were upset on that Saturday afternoon, but Tebow took the opportunity to ask for forgiveness for the loss emotionally, and to promise everyone that he would push and lead the Gators for the remainder of the season like no other player ever had.

"The Promise" was heard around the world, and the legend of Tim Tebow was solidified in Gator lore for eternity.

The Gators of 2008, led by All-Everything Tim Tebow, would go on to win the National Championship in Miami, defeating Oklahoma and Heisman Trophy-winner Sam Bradford. This was the second National Championship in three years for the Florida Gators.

During the post-National Championship celebration in Gainesville, Tebow announced he would return for his senior season. Frankly, I never had a doubt in my mind.

During an interview after winning the Heisman Trophy, he said that his priorities were God, family, school, and football, in that order.

I never doubted that Tebow's priorities would ever change, so naturally he would return for his senior season.

Enter the 2009 season. Gone were Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy, and freshman phenom Andre Debose was out for the season with an injury.

Nevertheless, all the starters on defense from the National Championship squad were back, including Brandon Spikes, so naturally Florida was favored to repeat as national champions.

The season has had its ups and downs, most notably Tebow's concussion suffered in the third quarter of the Kentucky game in Lexington.

Never before had the college football world been controlled by one story: Would Tebow be able to play against LSU in Death Valley? It seemed like you couldn't turn on a television or radio without hearing some update on Tim.

Then game day arrived, and it was announced that he would play. Of course, he led the Gators to victory, if rather conservatively. Up until that point, the LSU Tigers had won 32 straight home games, but Tebow led the Gators to end that winning streak.

Florida's offense has not shown the firepower of the 2008 Gators, but Tebow has led the offense to produce just enough while allowing the defense to prevent any team from outscoring Florida.

The Gators are currently ranked No. 2 in total defense, No. 1 in pass defense, and No. 7 in rush defense in the FBS.

As Florida prepares to face FSU this weekend in The Swamp, the final home game of the 2009 season, there will be plenty of tears shed.

Not only is it Senior Day for coach Meyer's very first recruiting class, but quite possibly it may be the last time coach Bobby Bowden coaches the Florida State Seminoles during a regular season game.

Bob and Pam Tebow will be on the field when they introduce Tim on Saturday, and as he hugs his mom and dad, Gator Nation will stand and show its appreciation for all he has accomplished.

Unfortunately, I will not be in attendance at that game, but I will definitely be one of those who say "thank you" for everything he has done for Gator Nation.

I know fans of the University of Florida will have those same feelings, but I do hope all fans of college football put aside their biases and applaud his accomplishments, too.

Tim Tebow is an extraordinary athlete and student, but most importantly, he is an exceptional human being.

And who knows? As coach Meyer alluded to during the aforementioned press conference, Gator Nation may see Tim Tebow return, eventually, to the University of Florida as a coach and possible replacement for Meyer.

I would hate to see Meyer leave Florida, but if he did, I would welcome Tebow as his replacement.


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