Tebow on display in Alabama

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow warms up before their game against Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on Jan. 1, 2010.

Tricia Coyne/Staff photographer
Published: Monday, January 25, 2010 at 11:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 25, 2010 at 11:42 p.m.

MOBILE, Ala. - He was in his familiar No. 15, wearing that same old orange and blue helmet with "Gators" scripted on the side, and running around on the practice field throwing passes and making plays.

Except for the hundreds of NFL coaches and scouts surrounding the field at Fairhope Stadium and studying his every move Monday afternoon, this seemed like just an ordinary day on the practice field for former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

"It was good, a lot of fun," Tebow said. "Obviously, with all new guys out there and throwing to new receivers, there's a lot to get adjusted to, but it was fun. I was fine. I think it's still just playing football and understanding the scheme and everything. It will be OK. It's football."

Tebow has become THE story at the Senior Bowl this week. The game sold out shortly after he announced he would be playing in it, and now the national media has swooped in to cover his every move as the begins his transition from college superstar to NFL quarterback hopeful.

Thousands of fans showed up for Monday's practice, many of them wearing UF attire and some carrying Tebow signs. The first person to greet him when he stepped off the bus was a young Alabama fan, Tebow gave the kid a high five and then went to work.

At times, Tebow appeared a little uncomfortable, especially lining up under center, something he rarely did at Florida. He dropped a few snaps early, but then settled down and seemed to perform at a high level throwing the ball and running the Miami Dolphins' offense for the South team.

"It's frustrating sometimes because you don't want to drop the ball under center, little things like that," Tebow said. "It just takes a little time getting used to a new center and new coaches and new receivers. It's just getting used to it. It's the same way it is the first day at Florida every year, too."

This is a little different setting because Tebow will be under the NFL microscope all week long as the pro scouts and coaches break down his game and try to determine what kind of NFL quarterback he will make.

There are skeptics. Some have questioned his footwork, his passing mechanics and his long delivery. Others aren't sure how Tebow will do under center because he was rarely ever there at Florida.

Tebow certainly seemed relaxed performing in front of the coaches and scouts Monday. He said he's feeling no pressure to perform. He said he's taking the advice UF coach Urban Meyer gave Tebow before he left Gainesville: just be yourself and everything will be fine.

"Just have fun, run around, do what I do," Tebow said. "I'll be focused and work as hard as I can and do the best that I can. Other than that, I'm not going to worry about it.

"I love football and I love competition. Those are the most important things. I'm not worried about coming out here and failing in any way. I'm having fun out there and being myself. That's all there is too it."

Tebow said the criticism that his game might not translate to the NFL doesn't affect him.

"I'm pretty used to dealing with a lot of criticism, since I was in eighth or ninth grade," he said. "I can handle it. I'm a pretty self-motivated person. I have a little motivation going on there."

Tebow said he's been working out with former NFL quarterback Zeke Bratkowski and former NFL quarterbacks coach Marc Trestman.

"I've worked to improve my mechanics, but I haven't changed them too much," Tebow said.

He was definitely very comfortable with one aspect in Monday's practice: throwing passes to former UF receiver and roommate Riley Cooper. The two hooked up for several passes.

Cooper said after practice that he's a full-time football player now and will no longer pursue a professional baseball career with the Texas Rangers, who drafted and signed him this past summer.

Cooper said he's informed the Rangers of his decision and that he will be returning his bonus money to the club.

"I told the Texas Rangers, 'Thank you very much, I appreciated the opportunity,' " Cooper said. "But my mentality is football, so I'm going to do that."

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