Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

How Close Was Tide to Tebow? Ex-Alabama Coach Shula Spent 12 Hours with Tebow the Day before He Chose UF

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

How Close Was Tide to Tebow? Ex-Alabama Coach Shula Spent 12 Hours with Tebow the Day before He Chose UF

Article excerpt

Byline: GENE FRENETTE

Four years ago, Mike Shula and his Alabama coaching staff made it their mission to lure Tim Tebow away from his Florida roots and into a Crimson Tide uniform.

Now the Jaguars' quarterbacks coach, Shula outlined during a 12-hour, in-home visit with Tebow on Dec. 12, 2005 - the last of five consecutive days in which the Florida quarterback listened to pitches from Southern Cal, Michigan, LSU and UF - the option-type offense he designed for him. Shula believed the Tide was "50-50 with Florida" to secure Tebow's services, a monumental decision that tipped the scales of power in the Southeastern Conference for the next four years.

The day after Shula's in-home visit, Tebow announced his commitment to UF on national television. Two years later, he became the first sophomore to win a Heisman Trophy. Now the Tebow-led Gators are going for their third SEC title in four years today against Alabama, the same opponent they beat last year, 31-20, in an epic battle after trailing in the fourth quarter.

But imagine how much the fortunes of both schools might have changed if Tebow chose Alabama, which lost the recruiting battle in what the family acknowledges was a hair-splitting outcome.

Would Shula, who was fired after a 6-7 season in 2006, still be coaching the Tide? Would Florida still be two wins away from a third national title in four years, a feat accomplished only by Notre Dame (1946-49) and Nebraska (1994-97)?

"I really don't think about that," Shula told the Times-Union. "We recruited [Tebow] hard. It's disappointing when you don't get somebody you feel good about. Tim is such a good quality person and you want that on your team. All the highlights and what you hear about him all say the same thing: he's got the total package. A lot of quarterbacks carry a team, but not in the way that Tebow does.

"You could see back then he had a chance to be a difference-maker. You combine his talent with all of his intangibles. It was hard to put a ceiling on this kid and what he could mean for your football team. I knew we were in the [recruiting] hunt the whole time. I never felt like we were in the lead, but I thought we were 50-50 with Florida. …

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