Tim Tebow helped the Gators to their second national championship two years ago in Atlanta, and on Saturday he’s holds the keys to the Gator offense that now has full control of their ultimate destiny. But in order to get the Gators to a second national championship appearance in three years, he’ll have to defeat the No. 1 team in the country and a school that he almost narrowly chose over the Gators.
“I was up in the air,” Tebow said remembering back to the recruiting process. “I grew up being a huge Gator fan, loved Florida and loved everything about Florida. But then I made the best decision for me, what I felt was right, so I really tried to look with an open mind at all the schools, and I really liked Alabama, I liked Coach Shula, I liked what he stood for on and off the field, and I liked everything about their program and the passion that their fans have for football and how big it is there. I'm very passionate about it, as well. I thought it was just a great fit, and I liked him, and I thought it would be great playing for him. So I really liked the school at Alabama.”
“But then at the end, I really just thought Florida was the best fit for me, playing for Coach Meyer and staying closer to home and staying in the state of Florida,” Tebow added. “I think those factors kind of were the biggest things for me.”
When Tebow was getting recruited by Florida, not a whole lot was known about Meyer. He was in his first year at Florida after coming from Utah and Bowling Green. But Tebow paid close attention to the way he coached.
“I was just watching him at Utah and everything,” Tebow said. “I had seen him coach, and I knew he was a great coach. I knew he was a very intense guy, but even when you meet him you can tell how passionate he is and how intense he is and how much love he brings to the table and how much he wants to win. That's kind of the first thing that I saw when I met him, before I got to really get to know him that well, just how intense he is and how much he wants to win.”
Meyer’s intensity on the sidelines may only be matched by his quarterback. And now, Tebow has to lead the offense against the biggest challenge they’ve faced all season. Alabama’s defense ranks No. 3 nationally.
“[Alabama is] a great team, being coached by a great coach, and all the great players, it's very exciting,” Tebow said. “This was our number one goal all year and all season was to get to the SEC Championship, so it means a lot now that we're here.”
Tebow’s stats are not nearly as impressive as they were a year, but to him, that doesn’t define his play. He evaluates himself on how he manages the offense, and he thinks he’s done a pretty good job of doing that.
“I thought overall I had a better year as far as handling the offense and managing and just being a quarterback and leading my team to victories,” Tebow said. “I think the best way to judge it is by our win loss column, and I think that was my number one focus was getting us to the SEC Championship. And being here, it means a lot. That's the ultimate goal, so I'm satisfied now that we've done that. But not yet, we still have one more game to go.”
There’s been a lot of pressure on Tebow this season, coming off a Heisman winning performance from a year ago. Meyer thinks it got to him a little bit at the beginning of the season, but for Tebow he thinks it was more of the pressure he put on himself.
“I think for me I was probably wanting to be too perfect, like everything perfect, have a perfect season and everything, probably forcing it a little too much,” he said. “After a few games I just started to relax and play, just go out there and have fun and be myself.”
“I'd say more probably pressure I put on myself because that's always greater than anybody else could put on me,” he added. “It was more going out there and playing and having fun rather than trying to be perfect.”
There has been a lot of focus on Tebow. He’s the face of Florida football, and really the face of college football. He takes it all in stride, and as he’s noted in the past, he uses it to share his beliefs.
“There are different ways people handle [the pressures],” he said. “But for me, I just try to take it as a blessing. You've got your pros and cons with everything, and some people can handle it as a pro or con. I just tried to look at it as a pro, as if I get to have an opportunity to share what I believe and to share everything I do with others and be put on a platform so I can set a good example for others, and that's really my ultimate goal.”