UF lands top QB recruit
Published: Wednesday, December 14, 2005 at 10:09 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 14, 2005 at 10:09 a.m.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH - His mother and father graduated from the University of Florida, he has a brother there now, and he grew up a Gator, going to games in The Swamp and cheering for UF for as far back as he can remember.
Given St. Augustine Nease quarterback Tim Tebow's strong bond to UF and Florida football, many were assuming this recruiting process would be a slam dunk, a deal quietly consummated long ago. And that his announcement on national television Tuesday would be a mere formality.
Florida all along, right?
Well, not exactly.
When Tebow woke up Tuesday morning, he was still agonizing over his decision - Florida or Alabama - and didn't know which school he'd pick later in the afternoon.
Florida coach Urban Meyer also spent an agonizing day wondering what Tebow would do and didn't find out until just minutes before Tebow went on ESPNews for his announcement.
His father, Bob Tebow, said he didn't know what his son was going to do until Tim, flanked by his parents on a stage in a packed school auditorium, leaned forward and spoke these words into the microphone: "I'm going to attend the University of . . . Florida."
The audience erupted in wild applause. Meyer and the Gator Nation breathed a huge and happy sigh of relief.
In this Florida-Alabama tug-of-war for one of the nation's premier quarterback recruits, it literally came down to the wire Tuesday. "He was deadlocked," Bob Tebow said. "He didn't break it until just before game time here. I didn't know until right there (when he made the announcement)."
Tebow said his long history with Florida football is what eventually made his decision clear late Tuesday afternoon.
"I prayed a lot about it," said Tebow, the state's all-time passing leader with 9,940 yards who led Nease to the Class 5A state championship five days ago. "It was agonizing the whole morning. I made my decision right before I came up here. It was 50-50 (between UF and Alabama) all the way.
"I would love to play for coach (Mike) Shula and Alabama, but I just want to play for coach Meyer and Florida. I just feel comfortable there. (Growing up a Gator), I think that's what it came down to in the end. They are two great programs and two great schools. I've been there (at UF) for a while and I just felt really comfortable. Some days I'd feel comfortable at Southern Cal or Alabama. I felt comfortable at Florida today."
Tebow had dozens of scholarships offers, but had narrowed his list down to five schools - Florida, Alabama, LSU, Michigan and Southern Cal. As the recruiting process began to wind down and decision time approached, Tebow had whittled it down to two - UF and Alabama.
After Shula spent almost 12 hours with Tebow and his family Monday afternoon and evening, Tebow planned to make an unofficial visit to UF Tuesday morning for one last meeting with Meyer. He canceled that trip, fueling speculation that he was going to choose Alabama.
Tebow said he just needed a little more time to himself.
"I was busy and wanted to have some time alone to pray about it and just make sure I was making the right decision," he said. "All along, we were hoping for a sign. That's what I prayed about the whole time (during the recruiting process). Florida is where I feel comfortable. Hopefully, that's the place God wants me. I think it is. That's why I chose Florida."
Tebow said he developed a close relationship with the coaches in his top five, especially with Shula and Meyer.
Tebow said it was difficult telling Shula he had picked Florida. "It was one of the hardest things I've ever done," he said. "Coach Shula is such a class act. He said, 'You're going to succeed wherever you go,' and he wished me good luck at Florida, a team they're going to play next season. He has so much character."
Tebow said his next coach also is a man of character. "Urban Meyer is an incredible coach," he said. "He stresses all the right things in terms of behavior and character. It's tough telling the other coaches no, but this is an exciting time. I went with my gut and what I felt comfortable with."
Tebow's next big decision will be whether to enroll at UF in January and start competing in the spring, or remain in high school and play baseball one more season before coming to Florida in the summer.
"I'm still wanting to play baseball," he said. "It's still a decision I'm trying to make."
The tough decision, however, is now behind him. The long-time Gator fan is now a Gator.
"We're excited for Timmy and his family," Nease football coach Craig Howard said. "We're excited for the Florida Gators. They're keeping him home. I hope he can do for Florida what he did at Nease, and that's win championships.
"It was a very difficult decision. It came down to heart and a gut instinct - maybe what a 5-year-old kid wanted to do when he had a dream of being a college football player, being a Gator."
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