UF shut out at awards show


Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, left, with friend Kelly Faughnan, arrives at the Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards in Lake Buena Vista , Fla., Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009.

The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 10:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 10:40 p.m.

University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow didn't take home an award from the The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards Thursday night, but he made national news from the red carpet with his date, the young woman he brought on his arm.

She was Kelly Faughnan, 20, whom he met the day before. Faughnan had been diagnosed with a brain tumor just before Thanksgiving last year. Before surgery last year, her wish was to go to Disney World during the awards show to get a glimpse of Tebow.

Faughnan is from Clifton, Va., according to several news reports.

Fox News reported that Faughnan had asked her family to make the trip from the Washington, D.C., area and was wearing an "I Love Timmy" button at an event Wednesday night.

"I got to meet her and she was a fan," Tebow said in a Fox News video from the red carpet. "We just became good friends last night, and I asked if she wanted to walk the red carpet with me tonight. And she said yes and went out and got a nice dress today, and we're having a good time."

"It's the best thing ever," she said.

There were four Gators in the audience Thursday night at The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards show, but none were called to the stage to accept awards.

Quarterback Tim Tebow, cornerback Joe Haden and punter Chas Henry were shut out. So was middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, who was not in attendance.

The fourth Gator present, center Maurkice Pouncey, was acknowledged for winning the Rimington Trophy (outstanding center), but that award was not part of the show. Tight end Aaron Hernandez also was acknowledged for winning the John Mackey Award (best tight end), also not affiliated with the show.

Tebow was one of three finalists for the Maxwell Award (best all-around player) and the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award, but they both went to Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, a strong contender to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday. The double victory may be a good indication of what to expect at the Heisman ceremony.

Haden was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award that went to Tennessee strong safety Eric Berry, while Henry lost out to Georgia's Drew Butler for the Ray Guy Award. Spikes was a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player) that went to Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who also won the Outland Trophy.

Thursday night's other winners were Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate (Biletnikoff Award), UCLA place-kicker Kai Forbath (Lou Groza Award), Stanford running back Toby Gerhart (Doak Walker Award) and Boston College defensive lineman Mark Herzlich (Disney Spirit Award).

Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly, who took the Notre Dame job Thursday, won The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award. Former BYU coach LaVell Edwards was given the NCFAA Contributions to College Football Award.

The award winners were the only players made available for interviews.

Tebow didn't win any awards, but he was clearly the most popular player in attendance. He received a huge ovation from several hundred fans when his appearance was announced on the red carpet leading into the theater. Tebow took time to sign autographs and shake hands with many of the fans.

"It's an honor to be here for the third year in a row," said Tebow, who won the O'Brien and Maxwell awards two years ago, and the Maxwell last year. "To be with these great athletes, these great players, it's just very special."

Tebow was on the stage to present the Disney Spirit Award to Herzlich, who has fought a winning battle against cancer.

Tebow said he and the Gators have recovered from the crushing loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game last Saturday in Atlanta.

"We have gotten a lot of support from a lot of people, which has been very nice," Tebow said.

Tebow said the loss to Alabama would not detract from the Sugar Bowl game with Cincinnati.

"We want to finish strong in our last game," he said. "It's not where we wanted to play, but it's truly a blessing to be in a BCS bowl game playing a great team like Cincinnati. We've got to finish strong.

"It's the last game I'm going to play as a Gator. Obviously, I want to win it very badly."

Before the awards show, Haden said he is close to making his decision on whether to forgo his senior year to enter the NFL Draft. Haden, who could be the first cornerback taken and is a sure first-round pick, said he will know what he's going to do before the Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl.

"But I'm not going to tell anyone until after the game," he said.

When asked why he would even consider returning for his senior season, Haden said, "To play with my brother (incoming freshman defensive back Jordan Haden) and get my degree."

Berry, the Thorpe winner, said Haden was the best cover corner in the nation this season.

"He's the kind of corner you can put on somebody and you don't have to worry about him," Berry said. "He can shut people down, like he did to Julio Jones (in the SEC title game). He's a great player."

Also before the show, former Notre Dame and South Carolina coach Lou Holtz expressed his happiness over UF defensive coordinator Charlie Strong being named the head coach at Louisville on Wednesday. Strong was Holtz's defensive coordinator at South Carolina, and Holtz has said for several years that Strong deserved the opportunity to be a head coach.

"He'll do a great job. More important, he'll be a great asset to the players," Holtz said. "The players don't have any idea how their lives are going to change for the better."

Holtz revealed Strong was one of the two final candidates for previous job openings at California and Kansas.

"He was almost the coach at California and almost the coach at Kansas," Holtz said. "It was down to he and Jeff Tedford (at Cal) and down to he and (Mark) Mangino (at Kansas). It was very close for both those jobs. Charlie truly deserves this opportunity."

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or at andreur@gvillesun.com.

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