FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Tim Tebow walked into the Harbor Beach Marriott the other day, and the clamor could not have been greater had Elvis Presley himself stopped by after filming "Girl Happy.”
One difference: It wasn’t schoolgirls, from Florida or anywhere else, who quivered at the sight of the quarterback icon.
It was media.
Calloused, cynical media. Many of them from Florida, yes, but still. Tebow is a Sunshine State legend, beloved by fans who pen songs and media who write sonnets and teammates who gush unashamedly about their leader.
"It’s kind of cool being with a rock star,” said Florida flanker Louis Murphy.
This is a devotion unlike what we know out West, where star quarterbacks are feted and revered and occasionally elected to Congress.
But Tebow’s celebrity seems to trump anything seen from the Rio Grande to the Dakotas. Tebow’s celebrity seems to involve Beatles-like worship.
"He gets absolutely mobbed when he goes to class,” said Sam Bradford, who also has a Heisman Trophy and has quarterbacked a team to this Big Bowl showdown for the national championship. "That’s not me.”
Quite the contrast of quarterbacks in the Big Bowl. While Tebow handles his spotlight with ease, Bradford would rather be taking snaps. While Tebow smiles and charms his adoring media, Bradford looks at his watch and wonders how much longer he has to endure the interrogation that goes with winning the grandest individual prize in sport.
But here’s good news for Soonerville: Comfort in the pocket, not on the podium, will determine this football game. Firing accurate passes, not witty one-liners, will put points on the Dolphin Stadium scoreboard.
No doubt this game will be determined by quarterback play. If the Sooners give Bradford time to throw, it’s doubtful Florida can win. If the Sooners allow Tebow to be two-dimensional, completing passes and turning all Larry Csonka to bounce off defenders, it’s doubtful Florida can lose.
And while being a rock star has its advantages, none of them actually pertain to a football game. The closest college player to Tebow I can think of, Archie Manning 40 years ago, went 22-10-1 as the Ole Miss quarterback, including 11-6-1 in SEC games. Not bad, but not Big Bowl.
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