The Tim Tebow Tour continues tonight when Tebow and the St. Lucie Mets again play the Tampa Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. As part of All Things Tebow, the Times spoke with Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen, who was Florida’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2005-08, a stretch which included two national championships and Tebow’s 2007 Heisman Trophy season.
Here are Mullen’s thoughts:
“I know a lot of people look at stuff Tim does and say is he for real? Is this just a circus? Knowing Tim, absolutely not. He wants to go out and do his very best every day. He loves competing.
“Tim was a high-profile recruit with a lot of attention on him. He was in very much of a supporting role (in 2006). I think he played about 10 plays a game as a freshman. But even then, he would play in some key moments. A lot of that was because of his special skill set. That fourth-and-one play, that was his specialty. That led to jump passes off it, that led to play action off it. He was there in key moments and those moments were never too big for him. It helped him build a lot of confidence. The aura started to build. When he came back for his sophomore year, he had that confidence to go out on the field and make things happen.
“Tim’s strength as a leader was his work ethic. He set the bar very high for people. They looked at him and realized no one was ever going to outwork him. Look at how hard he’s working, look at the effort.
“Statistically, he was spectacular (in 2007). But he was much better the following season, the national championship year. He just didn’t have the gaudy numbers. I look back at the seven-touchdown game at South Carolina. They were numbers people hadn’t seen it before. The next season, 2008, he didn’t have to score all the points. He didn’t have to do everything.
“The moments for me with Tim were probably more off the field. If God has given you the opportunity and ability to make a positive influence on people’s lives, you should be obligated to do so. I try to do that as a head coach in the SEC. I have an opportunity to make a positive impact, whether it’s with players in our program, fans or people in the community … I kind of learned that from Tim. To sit and take a phone call with a dying child, or take his time to take a picture with a young fan. He did that and he does that. More than any play, that’s what sticks with me.
“I know Timmy. Most of the world knows Tebow. I know the Tebow aura. But I feel blessed to know Timmy. He’s very special. Tebow is the aura. Timmy is the guy who comes over to your house and spends Thanksgiving dinner with me three straight years while we were getting ready to play Florida State. A lot of people know Tebow. Not as many people know Timmy.
“He’s a very polarizing figure. There are haters in the world. I would say there are more Tim haters than doubters. To me, it’s hard to doubt someone who’s going to go out and give their all every time. That’s a winner mindset. He’s a winner. There are more haters, who say if he doesn’t do everything he says, he’s not perfect. Here’s a young man with very strong values. I think a lot of people are jealous of that because they don’t have as strong (a set of) values as he does. So, they try to find fault in him to make themselves look better.
“He’s like a family member. I love him to death. I respect his faith. It was who he was daily. It doesn’t mean you must have the exact same faith, but you can sure respect someone who has those strong beliefs. That’s a positive way to live your life. Whether you try to do that in religion, or in college football, or the classroom, or in a TV career, or in missionary life – or in trying to play pro baseball – that’s a very hard thing to do.
“People attack. They attack his religion. They attack that he did not have a huge NFL career. He won a playoff game. Maybe he hasn’t won as many as Tom Brady, but he has won more than most of the rest of the people in the entire world. Right?
“I don’t hear a Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning or a Ben Roethlisberger really criticize his pro football career. I think they probably have respect for him. He made it to the NFL. They know how hard that is. I don’t hear Michael Jordan criticizing Tim’s baseball prowess. Jordan tried it and it was hard. A lot of the critics are people who haven’t tried to do what Tim has done, or tried much of anything."