Even the most avid Florida Gator hater will agree that Tim Tebow has had an outstanding college football career. His 55-touchdown campaign in 2007 was historic and the possibility of a national championship in this, his second Heisman-nominated season, will only cement his legacy.
Whether that legacy will make the leap to the NFL is still up for debate.
Those who see Tebow as an overrated “system” quarterback and the product of an over-hyped media machine have him penciled in as a guaranteed bust in the pros.
Those who are swimming in the Tebow Kool-Aid see him as the future superstar gunslinger of the NFL.
Moderate wisdom might have him fall somewhere between the two.
The question of Tebow’s perceived potential in the NFL is not just on the minds of college football fans but the Gator quarterback himself.
Tebow told the Orlando Sentinel this week that he plans to petition the NFL draft advisory committee on his projected draft status should he decide to forego his senior season and enter professional football.
Critics of Tebow say he lacks the footwork to excel in the pocket on an NFL field. His release is too slow and deliberate, and although he’s had some success with the deep ball, he has profited more from his receivers than his own talent.
Proponents for Tebow say he has too many intangibles to think he won’t make it in the NFL. His work ethic, leadership, and personal character can’t be overlooked and his ability to win football games consistently can’t be underestimated.
Tebow’s 21 wins as a starter are on par with Scott Frost, who won 24 games from 1996 to 1997 with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Like Tebow, Frost was exceptionally accurate with the ball, completing a school-record 155 passes without an interception.
Unlike Frost, however, Tebow threw for 60 touchdowns in that two year span; Frost, just 18.
Like Tebow, Troy Smith has a national championship ring and a Heisman Trophy. While Smith’s passing numbers in his final year with Ohio State are very similar to Tebow’s this past season, Tebow’s rushing stats are nearly double that of Smith.
Tebow is also significantly larger than Smith: three inches in height, and 25 pounds in weight.
Comparisons to Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger begin and end with their size. Roethlisberger and Tebow each weigh roughly 240 pounds, with Tebow giving about two inches of height to Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger’s arm, however, is much stronger than Tebow’s while Tebow has proven to be more successful running the ball than the relatively mobile Roethlisberger.
His ability on both the ground and in the air is reminiscent of Michael Robinson, Penn State’s 2005 quarterback. Tebow was more efficient than Robinson, however, throwing nearly twice as many touchdowns, half the interceptions, and completing fifteen percent more of his passes.
Robinson was converted into a running back in the NFL, something that has been suggested of Tebow. NFL Draft pundits Mel Kiper and Todd McShay both have predicted that Tebow might end up a tight end/halfback hi-breed in the NFL.
Following a serious knee injury, Blue Chip quarterback Dan Kendra made the switch to fullback midway through his time at Florida State. Kendra’s arm, running ability and size (6’2”, 255 pounds) are very similar to Tebow. Kendra, however, was a second-string fullback at best, and never made it to the NFL.
The aforementioned Scott Frost, drafted in the third round by the New York Jets, was converted into a defensive back and had an unimpressive six-year career in the NFL.
Previous college quarterbacks to successfully make a position switch in the NFL include Antwaan Randle El, Drew Bennett, Matt Jones, and Brad Smith; none of whom would be confused for Tim Tebow in a police lineup.
Some scouts see Tebow filling a role as a Mike Alstott-type goal line back or a Chris Cooley-type tight end. Alstott and Cooley, however, played the same positions in the pros as they did in college and never had to endure a switch. Tebow would need to significantly improve his run blocking abilities if he were to make it at either position.
Even Urban Meyer’s previous quarterbacks can’t provide a hint to the future. Tebow is nothing like Josh Harris, who played under Meyer at Bowling Green, Alex Smith, who excelled under Meyer at Utah, or Chris Leak, who Tebow succeeded at Florida.
Love him or hate him, Tim Tebow has proven he’s one of a kind. Only time will tell what kind that is.