Tebow determined to impress NFL scouts
Tim Tebow's NFL potential has been debated for years.
His throwing motion, arm strength and pocket presence have been dissected, examined and critiqued. His determination, leadership skills and work ethic have been commended, lauded and revered.
Some have little doubt he will be a star quarterback in the National Football League. Others believe he would be better suited at tight end or H-back.
The former Gators standout has made his intentions clear. Next week, at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., he gets a chance to prove to NFL scouts, coaches and general managers that he can play the game's most prominent position at its highest level.
"I've heard it once or twice," Tebow said recently, when asked about people questioning his NFL prospects. "I'm excited about it. I've heard a lot of it. Kind of heard that since high school, though. People didn't think I could throw at Florida, and we did OK at that.
"And going to the next level, just try to prove people wrong. That's my goal. It's fun. It'll be exciting. I just want an opportunity to be a quarterback at the next level and to get that chance."
Tebow may have silenced some critics with his performance in the Sugar Bowl earlier this month. The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner completed 31 of 35 passes for a school-record 482 yards and three touchdowns in a 51-24 victory that was considerably more lopsided than the final score.
He also ran for 51 yards and a score, and finished with more yards (533) than anyone in the history of the Bowl Championship Series.
After the game, Tebow declined to speculate on what the best passing game of his career might do for his NFL draft stock. But before Tebow completed his thoughts, Florida coach Urban Meyer chimed in.
"I'll help you answer that question," Meyer said. "Thirty-one of 35, 482 yards, three touchdowns, one of the most efficient quarterbacks ever to play the game, a part of two national championships. He's a winner, and unless the job description changes at some other level of football, he's a winner and he'll win at the next level, too. That's the way I feel about it."
'He'll probably be overdrafted'
Tebow left Florida with several NCAA passing records, even more Southeastern Conference marks and his name all over the school record book.
His college football legacy is secure, but that has done little to solidify his NFL future. Scouts can rattle off concerns regarding the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Tebow: He has taken just about every snap from shotgun formation, has a long windup, throws sort of sidearm, has average arm strength and holds the ball too long at times.
Some believe Tebow will be the latest in long list of star college quarterbacks who failed to have the same impact in the NFL, joining players including Nebraska's Eric Crouch, Miami's Ken Dorsey and Florida's Danny Wuerffel.
Others insist Tebow will be different, saying his athleticism and willingness to do whatever it takes to find success will transcend talent.
"I'll be surprised if workouts and all-star games change teams' opinions on Tebow," ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. "I think the one thing that will help the most for him is sitting down in those interview rooms. Remember, all it takes is one team and one decision-maker to fall in love with him to take him a half-round or maybe a full round ahead of where he should go.
"I think there will be plenty of teams that will look at it and say if he's still on the board at pick 35 or 40 or 45 — wherever that is — they'll go ahead and take him. He'll probably be overdrafted for what you're gonna get out of him for several years and maybe for his entire career."
'Star power is incredible'
There are other factors to consider, too.
Tebow's too-good-to-be-true image included more than 700 hours of community service in 2009 and it seems unlikely that he would come with any off-the-field problems or distractions. He might even be the most marketable rookie this year.
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver called Tebow "iconic" last fall, said his "star power is incredible" and made it clear Tebow could help his struggling hometown franchise.
When Tebow decided to play in the Senior Bowl, ticket sales took off. More than 5,000 tickets were purchased during the three days following his announcement.
Tebow already has been tabbed for a Super Bowl commercial, although it's believed to be an anti-abortion message and has stirred strong debate about whether he should be taking a stand so publicly on a polarizing issue. He also is reportedly close to signing a deal that would land him on the cover of EA Sports's NCAA Football 2011 video game, which will be out this summer.
Nonetheless, which team drafts him could be more important than anything else.
"There's no doubt in my mind that he can play quarterback in the NFL," Meyer said. "What style of play? The ability to adapt, some coaches are phenomenal at it. Some programs in NFL, you watch them, and they just adapt to who they have. And they win. And so I'm hoping he gets to the right place."