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. So while Tebow admits he’s enjoying the moment — "I’m having fun; I’m going to remember it” — he also says, "It would be a lot more fun if we win.” This is just the second meeting ever of Heisman winners. The first didn’t go so well for OU; Southern Cal and Matt Leinart routed Jason White 55-19 in this same venue. An eerie similarity — Leinart seemed much more at home in the spotlight than did White. But make no mistake. Bob Stoops has the quarterback he wants. Both in style — running quarterbacks need not apply at OU — and in demeanor. "He’s the best,” Stoops said of Sammy B., "meaning he’s just calm. The guy is humble. He just doesn’t let it bother him.” Stoops is highly complimentary of Tebow. To be otherwise is goofy, but Stoops said, "I love what he represents for the college game and what he represents as a student-athlete.” But Stoops likes Gary Cooper quarterbacks. Walk softly and carry a big throwing arm. Stoops said he has talked with Bradford about his new celebrity status. "I know it’s funny to think as a young person,” Stoops said, but "I experienced it even in 2000, that all of a sudden people treat you different when you win the national championship. "And I’m sure the same has happened for him now that he’s a Heisman Trophy winner. People treat you different, and you’re sitting here thinking, ‘Hey, I’m the same guy. Nothing has changed.’ It takes awhile to get used to it.” Tebow has gotten used to it. He has embraced it. He’s a fabulous face for college football. I don’t think his story or his personality is shtick. I think he probably is who everyone below the Mason-Dixon line thinks he is. Bradford will have to get used to it. He might even embrace it. But before those evolutions and decisions are made, there’s a football game to be played, which will be decided not at all by rock-star status. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080. Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.
→When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday →Where: Dolphin Stadium, Miami →TV: FOX (Cox 12) →Live blog: blog.newsok.com/ou Stay updated on your iPhone
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