Another year of Tebow at Florida makes for a great story


Published: Saturday, January 10, 2009 at 9:32 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 10, 2009 at 9:32 p.m.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- It's unbecoming to beg, so hopefully the Gator Nation will resist the temptation Sunday when it has an audience with the king.

Will it be the final audience?

Etiquette dictates it will be appropriate to cheer, hold up signs and even sacrifice small farm animals. Almost anything goes as we try to sway Tim Tebow into following the wisest career path.

Stay in school, young man.

Based on what we know, it will bring you the most happiness.

"I'm a people pleaser," Tebow said.

And nothing would please more people than you deciding to stick around for your senior year. Well, it wouldn't exactly have them clicking their heels in places like Tallahassee and Athens. But it would make the people you care most about very, very happy.

"I love Gator Nation," Tebow said.

He'll have that love returned this afternoon when the Gators throw another BCS celebration at Florida Field. The question on everyone's mind, of course, is what will Timmy do?

He has until Thursday to declare for the NFL draft. Until the announcement comes, the Gator Nation and College Football Continent will be gripped with suspense.

If Tebow ended it Sunday by telling the crowd he was turning pro, the only proper response would be a standing ovation. He could never take another snap and nobody could say Florida didn't get its money's worth out of Tebow's scholarship.

Most people are guessing he'll stay, but then most of us never thought leaving after three years would ever be an issue. I thought Tebow was such an orange-and-blueblood he'd want to wring every last second out of his Gainesville experience.

There are understandable reasons to pack up early. Tebow has had a pretty good career. And beneath that perpetual grin, the Big Man on Campus grind might be getting a little old.

What must it be like to get up every day, leave your dorm room and be a one-man attention circus? Every girl wants to be your honey. Every guy wants to be you. Some probably want to be your honey as well.

It doesn't sound like a bad life for a 21-year-old, but it must get a tad tiresome. If Tebow left, he could go outside and not stop traffic. He could eat at Burger King and not have the french fries he left on his tray appear that night on eBay.

He could also do what really motivates him, which is make people munch on their words. The Mel Kipers of the world don't think Tebow will be much of an NFL quarterback.

He might not be drafted until the third round, if not lower. They think he'll be a tight end or an H-Back, which is a combination of receiver, runner and blocker.

That's like asking James Bond to become Joe Plumber. Tebow will dedicate himself to proving he can play at the pro level. That's not much of a question at his current one.

"At some point I'll probably get blasted for saying it, but he's one of the best players to ever put on a helmet," Urban Meyer said.

Who could argue? The first national championship made Tebow a phenomenon. Winning the Heisman as a sophomore made him a legend. Leading Florida to another title has elevated him to mythical status. Picture Zeus doing the Gator Chomp.

There is nothing left to prove, but there are things to add. Like another title, another Heisman, another missionary trip where he heals lepers. In the century-plus history of college football, only Tebow has been in a position to accomplish such unfathomables.

Tebow's professional quest will intrigue millions, but all that would still be there in 2010. He can't go back and relive Florida 2009 if he's sitting on an NFL bench.

His first pro season will be a good story. His final college season would be a great story. Being a selfish sort, that's all I care about.

Let's be honest, everybody who's hoping Tebow will stay is largely motivated by self-interest. Fans know he'll make the Gators odds-on favorites to repeat. The University Athletic Association knows it will sell a few zillion more No. 15 jerseys.

Newspapers know readers devour everything Tebow. Even in rival SEC towns where people will puke if they see one more picture of him doing the Gator Chomp.

Everybody wins if he stays, but all of us owe Tebow the freedom of making a guilt-free choice. Don't worry about pleasing us. Please yourself, young man.

"Rest assured, Tim will make the right decision," Meyer said. "I have no idea what that is."

Meyer is close to Jack Del Rio and plans to have him assess the options for Tebow. Hopefully the Jaguars coach will tell Tebow he needs another year to work on his delivery. If not, hopefully the phone line will go dead.

Or if you know anyone who does a good Del Rio imitation, have them call Florida's athletic department, ask for Tebow and tell him he needs another year to work on his delivery.

If that doesn't work, tell him Ole Miss players are chortling over beating the national champs.

If that doesn't work, promise him he can eat in peace next year at Burger King.

And if that doesn't work, forget etiquette.

Let's just get on our knees and beg.

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