Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has returned to campus countless times since his last snap for the Gators in the 2009 season.
He is beloved by the fan base and embraced by current coaches and players. But with new Gators coach Dan Mullen at the helm, Tebow’s connection to the program is even stronger.
Mullen recruited Tebow to Florida and served as his offensive coordinator and position coach from 2006-08. Since Mullen’s return to the program, Tebow has been a popular talking point at Mullen’s speeches and pressers.
Over the last eight years, the mention of Tebow sometimes has served as a painful reminder of what quarterback play used to look like at Florida. But when Mullen talks about him, their history get fans and recruits excited for the future.
“When I was here, 10 years ago, we were blessed to have some truly spectacular players. I mean, it’s fun calling plays when Tim Tebow is your quarterback and he’s throwing the ball out to a Percy Harvin,” Mullen said at his introductory news conference. “We have to do a great job recruiting to get that level of player back here to lead us back to championships.”
At one of his speaking tour stops, Mullen was asked what it will take for him to land Florida’s best recruits and keep them from leaving the state. Mullen responded by referencing Tebow, a lifelong Gators fan who attended games when Danny Wuerffel was the starting quarterback.
“We need everybody in the Gator Nation [to impact recruiting],” Mullen said. “We need flags flying in front of your house. We need people wearing their Gator gear around. In the back of kids’ minds, all they see is Gator stuff every single day. When you’re a young kid, you don’t know. You could have an 8-year-old sitting next to you that’s going to be the next Tim Tebow.
“He lives in the house next to you and every day he walks outside and all he sees is a Gator flag in front of his house. He sees neighbors and kids wearing Gator stuff. He says, ‘I’m a pretty good athlete and one day I’m going to be a Gator.’ At 8 years old all of a sudden that starts sinking in and then next you know, he’s the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for the Gators.”
Tebow and his college success is a recruiting tool that Florida has used in the past, but not to the extent Mullen will. Tebow is a childhood favorite for many 2019 and 2020 prospects, so any association he has with the Gators will only make them more appealing.
Just don’t expect Tebow to join Mullen’s staff anytime soon.
“I’d love to get Timmy back in the program in whatever role he would want to come in,” Mullen said after Signing Day. “He’s got baseball going on. Before that, he was in Southeast Asia on a mission trip. So his plate’s full, but we’d love to get him back in whatever capacity.”