HOOVER, Ala. — The impact of Tim Tebow’s impact on the University of Florida and on college football as a whole is not measured in a trophy case. It’s in his reach — the fact that everything he says or does has an effect well beyond what is intended.
A speech he made following a loss last season to Ole Miss was memorialized six months later on a plaque at the entrance to the Gators’ football facility so players, coaches, visitors, etc. — present and in the future — will be reminded of his passion. A Bible verse he wrote on the strips of eye black he wore during last season’s BCS championship game was Google’d 94 million times within 48 hours of that contest.
As he stood in front of a room of several hundred print journalists Thursday at the Southeastern Conference’s football media days — something no other player did or will do this week — it was impossible to know which answers would resonate and with whom. It was obvious though that he was happy to answer whatever was asked.
“I try to look at things from the positive, and there has been a lot of great things,” he said. “There have been a lot of people that have been encouraged not to have an abortion because they heard the story of my mom, or they have been encouraged because they have heard me give my faith on TV or in a report or something.
[Problems with his mother’s pregnancy jeopardized her health and the health of her baby; doctors urged her to abort, but she refused, and Tim became the family’s ‘miracle child.’]
“You know what, although there has been a backlash … I'll deal with it if I have to. It's not a big deal to me because of the kids and people that have been encouraged by the stories we have tried to tell and by the life that I've tried to live.”
Even before he took his turn in front of the microphones and cameras and notepads, the senior quarterback and 2007 Heisman Trophy winner was the central figure of this annual gathering. Every coach who preceded him was asked at least one question about him, and so were some of his peers.
Of course, many wanted to know which coach chose not to vote for Tebow as the first-team preseason all-conference quarterback — a question that remained unanswered with one day remaining.
Others pressed for insight into annoying personality traits or his professional potential.
“What you love about Tim Tebow, not only does he make the promise, he carries it out, and he puts his team on his back,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. “…I have those words, after our game, the words he spoke to the media, I have that on my desk. I read it to my team once. It was awesome. I have an awesome respect for that.”
That speech included the promise that “a lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will the rest of the season. …You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season.”
The Gators won their next 10 games, each by a minimum of 10 points (eight of them by at least 30) capped by a 24-14 victory over Oklahoma in the BCS championship contest.
“I didn't think it would become what it became,” Tebow said. “I wasn't even thinking about that too much after the game. I just know I was upset, heartbroken. Just felt like we let, I let my teammates down, my coaches, the fans.
“I wanted to let them know ultimately that something good was going to come out of this. They were going to see a different team, a different player, there was going to be positive coming out of something that was so negative. That was my ultimate goal with what I said. But I didn't think it would have this much hype, no.”
The fact that it does speaks volumes.