Tebow quickly impressed McDaniels, Broncos as a genuine gem
The Denver Post
In a meeting room at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Broncos coach Josh McDaniels and Tim Tebow sat several feet apart, engaged in animated, rapid-fire conversation about football. They clicked almost immediately.
McDaniels was convinced Tebow was genuine. He came away even more intrigued with Tebow as a player.
Tebow, an All-America quarterback at Florida and the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, felt he had found a kindred football spirit.
“I was jacked leaving that room. I didn’t even want to visit another room. It was not enough time,” Tebow said. “We were excited, we were enthusiastic. There was passion. It was just intense, and it was ball, and it was juice. The juice level in that room was high, and it was awesome.”
And that was just the first 15 minutes. Two months later, they formalized their partnership when McDaniels drafted Tebow at No. 25 overall Thursday night, a move that sent shock waves through the Broncos and the rest of the NFL.
In doing so, McDaniels didn’t just potentially draft the Broncos’ quarterback of the future. He brought to Denver the most polarizing player in college football, a 22-year-old star who has an off-field persona big enough to match his on-field accomplishments.
“We left (the combine) saying, ‘Boy, that’s pretty unique, what he has and his passion for this game and for winning.’ He’s been a winner, and you could see why,” McDaniels said.
Yet Tebow knows that when he reports to Broncos headquarters this week for the official start of his NFL career, he will do so as the fourth quarterback on the team’s depth chart – behind Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn and Tom Brandstater. The Broncos have their emotional compass in safety Brian Dawkins. And they have a slew of respected veterans on both sides of the ball who might not care how Tebow wowed McDan-iels at the scouting combine.
Tebow said he knows that as a rookie, he will be judged by how he works – not by what he says.
“I’m going to have one goal and that goal is to earn the respect of my teammates and coaches. That’s the only goal I have,” Tebow said. “It’s not to be the starting quarterback right now, it is to earn their respect, because when you earn respect from people, then they begin to like you, and then they believe in you, and then they begin to love you, and then you have a team that is united and cares about each other more than anything else.
“Then you go out there and you play for each other, you play for your coaches and you win championships.”
A whole lot of lore
The tall tales of Tebow’s high school and collegiate feats are true, not fiction.
Tebow once played three quarters of a prep game – and scored on a 29-yard run – with a broken leg. (He missed the rest of that season.) In his final game at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Fla., he begged his way off the sideline and into the Panthers’ defensive line, where he lined up at nose guard on the final series of the game. (His team won.)
At Florida, he became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy after one of the best statistical seasons in college football history: 3,286 yards passing, 895 yards rushing and 55 total touchdowns. He was on two Southeastern Conference and two national championship teams – one each as a role player and one each as the Gators’ star. In his final game with the Gators, he passed for 482 yards (three incompletions, no interceptions) and accounted for four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) in the Sugar Bowl.
That’s only part of the lore.
Also true are the stories of Tebow’s devout Christianity and spring-break mission trips to third-world countries, his motivational speeches in grade schools and maximum-security prisons. He also cares that people respect him for having his religious beliefs, even if they don’t necessarily agree. Just because he is a football player – and a very famous one – doesn’t mean he will refrain from sharing them.
Tebow and his mother, Pam, appeared this year in a Super Bowl television commercial sponsored by the Colorado Springs-based Christian group Focus on the Family. The commercial, with its anti-abortion message, cost Tebow several mainstream sponsors.
Tebow said he will never try to push his religious beliefs on others, especially in the locker room.
“You have to separate a lot of things with Tim. He’s going to share his faith with people. Some people will follow it, some guys won’t. With community service, he’s going to do his things and some guys will go along and some won’t,” said Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, a former Florida offensive coordinator who was Tebow’s position coach. “But the effect he has in the locker room is when people watch how he works. He’s a guy that when he gets in that locker room, he’s not going to care if people like him or not. He’ll care if people respect him.”
Tebow arrived at Florida in the spring of 2006 as one of the nation’s top recruits. He had just led Nease High School near Jacksonville – Tebow was home-schooled by his mother, but was allowed to play varsity sports – to a state title. He was the focus of an ESPN documentary and was named Florida’s Mr. Football after breaking numerous state records, including the one for all-purpose yards previously held by Anquan Boldin.
Before Tebow even threw a pass at Florida, he won over teammates in the weight room.
“He attacked the workouts like us, the juniors and seniors,” said Broncos linebacker Jarvis Moss, who played on that 2006 Florida team. “He outworked everyone on the team, and that’s how he gained the respect of a lot of the guys.”
Perhaps fans in Denver, and Tebow’s new teammates, will also need convincing. With his collegiate success and his outsized personality, there are plenty of fans suffering from Tebow fatigue. He was the most talked-about player in predraft television coverage. His throwing motion was dissected over and over. He was projected by some as a first- round pick, by others as a fourth-rounder. Plenty more said he would never be a starting quarterback in the NFL, let alone a star in the NFL.
“I don’t know if there has been anyone under a bigger microscope, at least in college sports, and maybe in all sports, than him in a long time,” Mullen said. “That’s a lot of pressure for a kid, and it never fazed him once.”
Broncos fans were somewhat split too when McDaniels drafted Tebow in the first round, but those who have known Tebow the longest aren’t entirely surprised.
“Even since he was young, there were people who either loved him or wanted him to fail,” said Craig Howard, Tebow’s coach for three years at Nease. “Some people love him too much, and then some people don’t even know him and they almost hate him.”
Tebow’s father, Bob, said he expects his son will find his niche in the Denver community soon enough.
“I’m sure he’s going to find a lot of people in Denver to care about and love,” he said.
One of Tebow’s older brothers may move with him here. Tim is the youngest of Bob’s and Pam’s five children, and it won’t be long before Tebow begins his off-field life here.
But first comes football, including more meetings with McDaniels and sessions in the weight room and his first set of NFL practices.
“When people see how he works, in all our drills, in all our conditioning, that’s going to be one of the first things people notice, just how excited he is,” Moss said of Tebow. “It might seem like a lot of false enthusiasm, but I don’t see any of it as being fake. The second thing is when people get a chance to sit down and talk to him, they’ll see his character, what kind of person he is.”