Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tebow's Fire Burned Brightly on a Rainy Day in 2003

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tebow's Fire Burned Brightly on a Rainy Day in 2003

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael DiRocco

On a rainy spring afternoon in 2003, a sophomore transfer from Trinity Christian Academy was working out by himself on the practice field, a football in his hand and mud on his shoes. That's when Nease High School coach Craig Howard realized Tim Tebow was going to be a special player.

A little more than four years later, the kid who worked on pass patterns through the downpour is on the cusp of becoming the first underclassman to win the Heisman Trophy.

Howard took a few moments out of his preparation for the Panthers' Class 4A state semifinal against Pace to speak with Times-Union writer Michael DiRocco about that day, Tebow's strengths and the surprising criticism from a coach on the other side of the country.

Question: When was the first time you saw something from Tim that let you know that he was destined to be a great player?

In the spring [of 2003] we had a football practice. ... I knew he was going to be a good quarterback. We practiced about two hours, and we went in and had a staff meeting. We came back out, and it was raining, and I looked back on the practice field, and there was somebody out there. It was Timmy. The kid was out there working on pass routes in the rain by himself. Right then, with the physical skills, dedication and hard work, I knew he was going to be the best I've ever seen.

Q: It's more than hard work that makes him great, though, right?

His hard work and commitment and passion for football carried over to other players. Great players, some are great by themselves. But the really great ones tend to make those around them better. Timmy did that at Nease, and he's done that at Florida. I knew that he was going to be special. I wish I would have written it down or documented this. I was talking to his dad, and I told him about this guy named Urban Meyer who had coached at Bowling Green and was at Utah. I told Bob, 'If Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer get together, Timmy will win two Heismans.'

Q: Are you surprised that he has been able to live up to the considerable hype surrounding him from the moment he committed to Florida?

I've noticed around him and around other people that have big dreams and are so-called big heroes, people want to detract and tear them down and say they can't and aren't good enough. I heard that all the time [about Tebow on the collegiate level]. There are always detractors and haters who didn't want to see them succeed. There must be a flaw in this kid somewhere. He's always proved them wrong. He's always proved the people that say he can't do something ... he's always changed their mind and still stays grounded without losing his focus. If he had a weakness when he was young, he would spend countless hours working on it. If I said, 'Hey Timmy, you need to work on throwing more to the right,' he'd spend hours working on that. …

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