Heisman winner Tebow again center of attention

Heisman winner Tebow again center of attention

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2008 2:01 pm
By: By JOHN ZENOR, AP Sports Writer

HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — Tim Tebow found himself once again wading through a throng of people who were trying to pin him down. This time it was Southeastern Conference media days, and Florida’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback was just trying to make it in the front door and past dozens of Gators fans, not run through a defensive line intent on tackling him. Tebow was as usual the center of attention during his visit to the Wynfrey Hotel after an offseason that was as atypical among college players as his own bulldozing quarterback style. He went on mission trips during all three school breaks since summer practice, to the Philippines, Thailand and Croatia. Tebow would rather talk about that than a bid to win a second straight Heisman Trophy. “It’s something that I love doing,” he said. “It’s something that I’m very passionate about. It’s more important than football to me. Taking my platform as a football player and using it to be an influence and change people’s lives, that’s more important than football to me.” Leaving the country also happens to be a way to cut down on some of the attention that he said mostly keeps him out of malls and Wal-Marts. Most of the time he goes unrecognized, but Tebow said he was approached by fans at an airport in Germany and in Manilla. “There are some times when you get noticed,” he said. “Most of the time you’re just another person passing through.” Tebow’s faith led Florida officials to decline to nominate him for Playboy’s All-America team during the spring. Gators coach Urban Meyer also took his wife and three children to the Dominican Republic for a mission trip in early July. A product of being around Tebow so much? “Tim has done a lot of things that have opened my eyes and that’s one of them,” Meyer said. “To have our children experience that with three other families, it was a life-changing experience. It’s something we’re going to do, if possible, every year.” REAPING REWARDS: Sylvester Croom and Mississippi State are reaping the recruiting dividends of last season’s strong finish. Croom said the Bulldogs have already landed 19 verbal commitments from upcoming high school seniors. It’s largely a benefit of having won eight games and the Liberty Bowl last season. “We are way ahead of where we’ve ever been in recruiting for next season,” said Croom, the 2007 SEC coach of the year. It remains to be seen if the Bulldogs have come far enough to achieve his goal of competing for an SEC title. “I don’t know if we’ll be good enough,” Croom said. “At the end of the day, we might not be. I think we have a chance to do that. Every year, we’ve played as good as we can. But our goal is to win the conference championship. I don’t know any other way to do it, if you want to be the best.” Croom’s decision to make sophomore quarterback Wesley Carroll one of the two players he brought to SEC media days seems like evidence of Carroll’s emergence as a team leader. “I didn’t read in a handbook where you had to have a senior,” Croom quipped. “I expect him to be even better this year,” he added. “We’re going to give him more options this year and allow him to make more decisions on the field, which we think will make us a more explosive offense.” Croom did say he would be willing to play two quarterbacks if junior college transfer Tyson Lee emerges. JOHNSON’S HOPES: Bobby Johnson jokingly cringed when someone brought up that he has outlasted every other Vanderbilt coach hired since the mid-1980s. He’s going into season No. 7 with the Commodores, which would match George McIntyre’s tenure that started in 1980. Job security questions are nothing new to him. “I remember in my first press conference, the very first day I was at Vanderbilt, some guy said, ’How long do you think you got before they fire you?’ Johnson said. “Really, he did.” The Commodores are coming off their 25th consecutive losing season. But they were a respectable 5-7 last season and were still in bowl contention until a season-ending loss to Wake Forest. “The thing is, our coaching staff has invested a lot into this program,” Johnson said. “They’ve worked extremely hard. We want to see it be successful. We’re hoping we can get it done. I think we’ve made strides toward that. I think we were extremely close last year.” Vandy must replace the entire offensive line and SEC all-time leading receiver Earl Bennett. SLIVE SPEAKS: Commissioner Mike Slive said the league will make a decision on its television and multimedia rights this fall. The TV deals with CBS, ESPN, Raycom Sports and FSN South run out at the end of the academic year. The options include an SEC Network similar to the ones started by the Mountain West and Big Ten conferences and the NFL. Slive said criteria the league is considering include the ability to provide national exposure and to air events for other sports besides football and basketball. He also touted the SEC’s progress in steering clear of trouble with the NCAA. The league didn’t make his stated goal five years ago of being probation-free by the 2008 media days, because Arkansas’ track program is on probation. “If we believe that history teaches, we can anticipate one or more of our institutions making a mistake,” Slive said. “And that will happen. But what’s different is how our institutions handle these matters — with honesty and with integrity.”

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