Tebow believes in college football

Tim Tebow, right, helps Latalyia McKnight and Elizabeth James sort donations for local Gainesville organization, Food4Kids, on Thursday. The Food4Kids Backpack Program of North Florida fills backpacks with non-perishable food and distributes them to students in need, from kindergarten through high school. [Lauren Bacho/Gainesville Sun]

Tim Tebow said he still believes in the power of good in college football despite its scandalous offseason.

Tebow was in Gainesville for a Food4Kids charity event on Thursday. The former Florida Heisman-winning quarterback helped pack boxes at an area warehouse with food that will be distributed to area students from kindergarten through high school.

Offseason scandals at Ohio State and Maryland marred the reputation of college football, with coaches at both schools suspended as a result. Of the 40 power football conference teams that hosted college football games in Week 1, 30 had attendance declines from the prior year, according to a Yahoo.com story. At Florida, attendance for its Week 1 opener against Charleston Southern was 81,164, down from 88,121 in its opener against UMass two years ago. Last year, Florida opened the season in Arlington, Texas, against Michigan in the Advocare Classic.

But Tebow is confident that college football will bounce back.

“It’s great for so many reasons,” Tebow said. “It’s not just the game. It’s the tradition, it’s the passion, it’s the excitement, all of those things.

“Yeah, there are some hits from different things, but I think it will be back because it’s just something that’s not a game for people, it’s a way of life and I think it brings so much excitement and joy to people,” he said.

Tebow would not specifically discuss his former coach at UF, Urban Meyer, who was suspended for three games by Ohio State for failing to properly handle domestic violence accusations involving one of his assistant coaches, Zach Smith.

“Kind of trying to see everything that happened and what comes out,” Tebow said. “It’s definitely a tough situation.”

Tebow is still heavily involved in college football as a weekly host at SEC Nation, which previews top games in the conference each week for the SEC Network. The 31-year-old also is continuing to try to pursue his baseball career. His season at Double-A Binghamton was cut short after he broke his hand in late July. Tebow was batting .273 with six home runs and 36 RBIs at the time of the injury.

“I’m healing up,” Tebow said. “Hopefully will be swinging here in a few more weeks. Getting better. It was a really fun season, felt really good about where I was heading and getting better … there are setbacks in everything, but that gives you another opportunity for a comeback.”

Tebow said he was impressed with the growth of current Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks, who passed for 219 yards and five TDs in UF’s 53-6 win over Charleston Southern last Saturday.

“He played with more confidence than any game last year,” Tebow said. “When he made decisions, he was all in with them. He wasn’t hesitating.”