The curtain has finally fallen on what will surely go down as one of the best collegiate careers ever. Regardless of how his NFL career pans out, Tim Tebow will be immortalized in the minds of college football fans everywhere.
Love him or hate him, nobody will ever forget him. He is a Michael Jordan type force. If college players were allowed to market themselves, he'd be signed to a multi–10s of millions of dollars deal with Nike and be their third most visible athlete behind LeBron and Kobe.
Funny that in December 2005 none of us saw this coming. Who knew that the fates of so many coaches literally rested in his hat choice?
Sure, he was one of the most publicized high school recruits ever, and the expectations were through the roof. However, it was during his next four years when his legend was made.
Think about it. If Tebow puts on the Tide's script "A," Urban's impressive run falls flat with zero national championships, SEC championships, or BCS bowls. He's probably fired from UF, and the Mountain West's current reputation as a coaching hotbed is tarnished.
I'm not saying that Patterson, Whittingham, or Mendenhall are any less impressive as coaches, but the spread offense's failed experiment in the SEC takes away some of the luster.
Mike Shula is definitely still coaching in Alabama, and the Tide move up their SEC dominance one year with bigger 2006 and 2007 recruiting classes. Who knows what Saban is doing (maybe even coaching Florida).
Fulmer remains the top dog at Tennessee, where he has at least two SEC East titles in four years.
Mark Richt might not be on the hot seat either as Georgia wins the 2008 SEC East title.
Mullen and Strong never get hired as head coaches because the UF offense never gets off of the ground, and Brandon Spikes follows Tebow to Alabama, taking away Strong's most consistent defensive player.
There are probably additional indirect coaching effects that might have happened because of Tebow, but I'm 85 percent sure that all of the above scenarios play out if Tebow goes to the Tide.
Seriously, has a football player ever affected so many teams so greatly? The difference Tebow makes on the field is basketball-ish. Whether or not you agree that he is college football's GOAT (Greatest of All Time), you have to agree that he's the most valuable player ever.
To say Tebow lived up to the hype is an understatement. He rolled over his lofty expectations like he rolled over Laron Landry in 2006.
In fact, Tebow raised the bar so much, that his 2009 season was considered mildly disappointing. Yep, somehow a 2900 yard passing, 900 yard rushing, 35 TD season didn't quite measure up.
Most players would kill for a season like that, much less to have that as an off year.
Tebow was different though. With him, outlandish success became the norm. Failure devastated the Gators because we just didn't see it too often.
As great as his talent is, it can't stand up to his perseverance. Tebow does not stay down.
In 2007, the Gators lost three out of four to SEC opponents including a bad loss to Georgia where Tebow never really got going and killed their shot at defending the SEC title. Tebow responded by leading the Gators to a 4–1 record over their last five games, averaging five TDs a game over the stretch.
In 2008, he failed to convert a 4th-and-1 against Ole Miss, weakening the Gators' title hopes. Nobody could believe that Tebow hadn't moved the chains. Nothing was more automatic than Tebow on fourth down.
However, he picked himself up, gave a post–game speech so moving that the university decided to frame it, and led the Gators through the best 10-game stretch in SEC history.
2009 brought injury, questions about his future, and the loftiest expectations ever. Tebow toiled through it all though, and gave the Gators their shot to go back–to–back in the BCS. Beat Alabama and the Gators were in.
Unfortunately, on the biggest stage, the Gators crumbled. In the aftermath, Urban Meyer crumbled too. The Gators couldn't have lost in a worse way. The Gators would face a hungry, angry Bearcats team as a consolation prize.
Leading up to the game, the Gators didn't have much going for them. Reports had come out that most of the juniors would be leaving, and the coaching staff was a mess.
Then, the Bearcats overran the city of New Orleans while the Gators seemed wholly unimpressed by the event. On New Year's Eve, the ratio of Bearcats to Gators was probably 10:1.
It evened out a little bit for the game, but the Gators were effectively playing a road game. The build-up felt like a set-up for failure. The Gators' dynasty seemed over before it had really begun.
Still, Tebow came back one last time. The senior saved his best for last with a 482 yard passing performance. He bested his previous career high by 144 yards, and added 51 rushing yards for good measure. The final tally: 533 yards and four TDs, the best BCS bowl performance in history.
Now it's over and Tebow will move on to bigger things. It may be the NFL, it may be missions work, it may be something else.
Gators' football must move on too. Much like Michael Jordan, the shadow of Tebow will drive plenty of great athletes to push themselves to be the "next Tim Tebow." Some will likely come to Gainesville where the shadow will be cast the largest.
However, much like Jordan, there will never be another Tebow. We could get great imitations like Kobe Bryant or LeBron James who can replicate the numbers, but nobody will ever match the whole package.
Sure, we'll miss the numbers, but the emotion, the off of the field philanthropy, and the drive will be so much harder to replace.
So, Tim, we bid you adieu. Thank you for four years of the best football imaginable. Thank you for never backing down from anything. Thank you for crying. Thank you for always keeping it real. Thank you for two national championships, two SEC titles, three BCS bowl wins, and a 48–7 record. Thank you, Tim, and we'll miss you.
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