0

Tebow hopes for final hurrah

Photo by Scott Chancey

Photo by Scott Chancey

The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- Tim Tebow has been honored, revered, praised, celebrated and cheered maybe more than any player in the history of college football. His record-setting career has been filled with accolades, awards and trophies.

He has performed like a superhero on the field for Florida and acted like a philanthropist off it.

His legacy is secure.

All that remains to his Gators career is one final game, the Sugar Bowl against No. 4 Cincinnati tonight. It's Tebow's last chance to add to a distinguished body of work that includes two national championships, two Southeastern Conference titles and a seemingly endless collection of big plays and passionate outbursts for the fifth-ranked Gators.

Here are 15 memorable moments in No. 15's unforgettable career:

1. THE PROMISE: Sept. 27, 2008. Tebow's emotional speech following a 31-30 loss to Mississippi motivated the Gators and carried them to a second national title in three years. Tebow's words are on a plaque that hangs outside Florida's stadium.

"He just said it and we got it done," linebacker Brandon Spikes said. "He was a prophet."

2. THIRTY MINUTES: Jan. 8, 2009. In the locker room at halftime of the BCS national title game in Miami, Tebow screamed, "Get in here, get in here right now. We've got 30 minutes for the rest of our lives. Thirty minutes for the rest of our lives." His red-faced, 30-second speech revved up the Gators, who outscored Oklahoma 17-7 in the second half and won 24-14.

3. HEISMAN HISTORY: Dec. 8, 2007. After becoming the first player in major college history to run for 20 touchdowns and throw 20 touchdowns, Tebow made history again by being the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. He made two more trips to New York, becoming the first three-time Heisman finalist.

4. THE CONCUSSION: Sept. 26, 2009. Against Kentucky, Tebow took a nasty shot to the back of the head while getting sack and spent a night in the hospital with a concussion. He returned to practice 10 days later, then led the Gators to a victory at LSU. His recovery dominated sports news for two weeks.

5. FOURTH-AND-1: Sept. 16, 2006. Showing confidence in his hyped freshman, Meyer turned to Tebow on a fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter at Tennessee. Tebow gained 2 yards, Florida took the lead two plays later and held on for a 21-20 victory that was key in a national title run.

6. THE JUMP PASS: Oct. 7, 2006. With LSU crowding the goal line, the Gators called a jump pass by Tebow. He took three steps forward, jumped, double-clutched and floated a wobbler to Tate Casey for a touchdown that put Florida ahead 14-7 in the second quarter. Just like that, Tebow was a dual-threat quarterback.

"Everybody's got their signature play," coach Urban Meyer said.

7. THE CRYING GAME: Dec. 5, 2009. Tebow watched helplessly as Alabama celebrated the SEC championship and a 32-13 victory that snapped the Gators' 22-game winning streak. His eyes red and watery, Tebow bit his bottom lip as tears rolled down his cheeks -- and Alabama fans cheered at the image on the big screen in the Georgia Dome.

"He cares about this team, our coaches, his teammates and he loves Florida," quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler said. "For him to be criticized over that was ridiculous."

8. RolliNG THE TIDE: Dec. 6, 2008. Tebow's three TD passes led Florida to an SEC championship victory against Alabama. Playing without Percy Harvin, Tebow was nearly flawless in a 31-20 win and he did most of his damage in the fourth quarter, leading two long scoring drives to rally the Gators.

9. THE BRAVEHEART GAME: Nov. 29, 2008. Covered in garnet-stained mud and pumping his fist after every big play, Tebow looked like he was plucked from a Hollywood movie set. Instead, it was just a typical performance against Florida State. A year after embarrassing the Seminoles with a broken right hand, Tebow accounted for four touchdowns in a rain-soaked, 45-12 win at Tallahassee.

10. SEVEN TOUCHDOWNS? Nov. 10, 2007. With Harvin out because of migraines, Tebow carried the Gators at South Carolina. He threw for 304 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 120 yards and five scores in a 51-31 victory. Afterward, Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier scanned the box score and said, "Seven touchdowns? Wow. That's pretty good."

11. FIRST CARRY, FIRST SCORE: Sept. 2, 2006. On his first college carry against Southern Miss, Tebow dived into the end zone for a 1-yard TD, the first of 141 for which he has accounted.

12. HURDLING HERSCHEL: Oct. 31, 2009. It couldn't have been more perfect. Tebow broke former Georgia star Herschel Walker's SEC record for rushing touchdowns against the Bulldogs and in his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla.

13. SENIOR DAY: Nov. 28, 2009. Thousands of fans wore eye black as a tribute to Tebow for his home finale. Tebow responded with his best game of the season, accounting for five touchdowns in a 37-10 victory over Florida State that sent Bobby Bowden into early retirement.

14. RUNNING THE REBS: Sept. 22, 2007. Making his first road start, Tebow ran 27 times for a career-high 166 yards at Ole Miss. He had a career-best 427 total yards in the 30-24 victory.

15. THE COMMITMENT: Dec. 13, 2005. Tebow chose Florida over Alabama on national television, an announcement that even surprised Meyer. The coach's cell phone died as Tebow was telling him how tough a choice it was. Meyer assumed Tebow was headed to Alabama and refused to watch. He found out from his wife and daughters.

From Tebow Mania to Tebowisms to Tebow Fatigue, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound quarterback has become the face of college football and one of the most famous athletes in the country.

Too good to be true? Or too good to top?

Either way, Tebow's not quite ready for it to end.

"I'm kind of mixed in my emotions," Tebow said. "It's kind of exciting on one hand and it's very sad in leaving a place like Florida. ... I've gained a lot. I think all those things are going to stay with me -- the relationships, the memories, the opportunity. All those things are going to stick with me."