By Ross Jones and Sid Saraf, FOXSports.com
If Tim Tebow feels his treatment in the NFL is offensive, it doesn’t compare to his high school days when coaches wanted him to play . . . nose guard.
As a 220-pound, high school freshman at Trinity Catholic (Fla.) in 2002, coaches preferred that he stayed on the defensive side of the ball. That led to Tebow deciding to transfer to Nease High School in 2003 to play in Craig Howard’s spread, no-huddle offense.
Bob Tebow, Tim’s father, called Howard, Nease High School’s then head coach, just weeks after he accepted the job.
Once Howard saw Tim throw the ball, he knew he was going to be special.
“After I took the job, I met with Bob and Timmy and I had Timmy throw the ball a little bit,” Howard told FOXSports.com. “I wanted to see him throw. I thought, ‘Man, this guy could be a great quarterback.’ ”
“In spring football that year, we had the first practice and I came into a staff meeting and 2 ½ hours after practice I looked out on the field and there was some kid out there throwing the ball and then running out and picking it up and throwing it again. It was that nose guard Tebow. That’s when I told the coaches, ‘We’re going to have a good program.’ ”
It didn’t take long for Tebow to win the coaching staff over. And even as a homeschooled student, he would win his teammates over just as quickly. His work ethic would help him take over the starting QB job as a sophomore and Tebow immediately made an impact.
“Timmy as a sophomore started breaking records, winning games and we had some great games in his sophomore year,” Howard said. His junior year, we got deep into the playoffs. His senior year, we won the state championship.”
Tebow received all the accolades and was named a high school All-American and the state’s Player of the Year. After his senior season, Tebow was on just about every school’s radar. His unique skillset allowed him to produce in multiple offenses.
“He was recruited by everybody. Pete Carroll would come callin’ and Urban Meyer and Jim Tressel and Mike Shula and they all wanted this Tebow kid. I told Urban Meyer, ‘You’re getting more than just a quarterback. You’re getting a guy that will change your life. And one that will change the Gator Nation.’”
His massive appeal and stardom never affected the way he treated people. He showed maturity during his time at Nease.
“He handled it with class and dignity and integrity and all of the things that you would want,” Howard said. “High school girls and cheerleaders would line up to get his autograph. I had a lot of meetings with him about staying humble and focused. Bob Tebow and Pam Tebow, his parents, raised him right.”
Tebow considered several schools and was very close to Alabama’s head coach Mike Shula.
“He was really almost set on going to Alabama,” Howard said. “Mike Shula was the head coach and he had a great relationship with Alabama. In fact, I attended the game when he was being recruited by Alabama when he went there. You walk into that stadium and I don’t know how many thousand people were chanting ‘TEBOW! TEBOW! TEBOW!’ He saw the passion for football in Alabama and it was so great. Mike Shula did a fabulous job recruiting him.”
(Photo courtesy The Florida Times-Union)
Howard talked to Tebow the night before his announcement to find out his decision, since they were going to be on live television at 2 p.m. the next day. However, Tebow hadn’t made a choice yet and wanted to talk it over with his parents and “pray about it” overnight.
“The next morning he called in on a conference call with his dad and I said, ‘Timmy, where have you decided to go?’ He said, ‘Coach, I haven’t made up my mind yet.’
“I said, ‘Timmy, it’s 2 p.m. and we have got to call the other schools and let them know you’re not coming before they hear it on TV.’”
Howard asked Tebow to declare which school he definitely wasn’t going to and he said “I don’t think I’m going to USC.” So, after making that call to Pete Carroll and a number of other coaches, Tebow pulled up to the school at 1:15 p.m. wearing a shirt and tie while accompanied by his parents.
“Where we going, Timmy?” Howard asked excitedly. “We going to Alabama? Or are we going to Florida?” When Tebow still didn’t have an answer, Howard decided to make it simple.
“I told him, ‘Where are you going to live the rest of your life? Alabama or Florida? When you were a kid, and you were 5 years old, where did you dream about playing? Alabama or Florida? You know, all your life did you have pictures in your bedroom of Alabama football or Florida football? Where did your parents go to school?’ I wasn’t trying to influence him, I was just trying to get him focused in on what he really wanted to do.”
Tebow’s bedroom was in fact full of Gators pictures. The mailbox outside his family’s house had a Gators emblem on it. Both his parents did indeed attend Florida. He grew up in Florida. After that he told his coach, “Yeah, I’m going to go to Florida.”
After an emotional, tear-filled phone call with Alabama head coach Mike Shula, Tebow and Howard called Urban Meyer 20 minutes before his televised decision.
“[Tebow] said, ‘Urban, this is Timmy Tebow and I’ve decided where I’m going to go. I’ve decided to go to . . . ’ And the phone went dead.
Needless to say, Meyer discovered Tebow’s decisions soon enough and the rest is history.