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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

In 107 words, Tim Tebow went from hyped hero to living legend.

"To the fans and everybody in Gator Nation, I'm sorry. I'm extremely sorry. We were hoping for an undefeated season. That was my goal, something Florida has never done here.

"I promise you one thing - a lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see someone push the rest of his team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season. You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season.

"God bless."

Tebow has made plenty of big plays &ndash most notably his fourth-and-1 conversion at Tennessee in 2006 and his entire record-setting Heisman-winning campaign of 2007 &ndash but now he had failed in the unlikeliest of moments.

The Gators had been upset. At home. Against an unranked Mississippi team. Having failed on a final fourth-and-1, the spot where Tebow had been seen as automatic.

But when he looked at his worst, he was actually at his best. His words became a rallying cry for teammates and fans.

These words would have rung hollow had the Gators not responded the way they did. UF won its remaining 10 games by double digits, including eight by 28 points or more.

And this is why Tebow was unanimously picked as our top UF athlete for last year.

In his junior season, he ran a prolific offense that averaged 43.6 points per game while once again leading the Gators in passing and rushing yards and totaling 42 touchdowns.

Tebow fell short in his quest for a second straight Heisman Trophy, finishing third, but earned more first-place votes than winner Sam Bradford and runner-up Colt McCoy.

But he was at his best during the team's two biggest games.

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The Jacksonville native earned BCS Most Outstanding Offensive Player honors after throwing for 231 yards and two touchdowns and adding 109 yards on the ground.

This came a month after Tebow earned Southeastern Conference Championship MVP honors with 14 of 22, 216 passing yards and 57 rushing yards, including a 5-yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper on a slant that sealed the game with 2:50 remaining.

"I've had some great players, and I've got some great players on this team," UF coach Urban Meyer said after the game. "But I've never had one like this. Tim's got something special inside him. I'm not talking about throwing. I'm not talking about running. I'm talking about making everyone around him better. That fourth quarter was vintage Tim Tebow."

He made an otherwise boring national championship celebration inside The Swamp immediately newsworthy with his drawn-out, climactic announcement:

"…Oh and by the way, one more thing &ndash let's do it again. I'm coming back!"

After living up to this year's promise, it's hard to doubt his next one.

For his near-miraculous leadership in leading the Gators to their second national championship in three years while solidifying his place as one of the best college football players of all time, Tim Tebow is the alligatorSports No. 1 UF Athlete of 2008-09.

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