ESPN announced a new relationship with former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow on Dec. 30, 2013, one which will feature the Heisman Trophy-winning signal caller as an analyst on the new SEC Network’s College GameDay spin-off show SEC Nation beginning on Aug. 28, 2014.
While the debut of that program is still nearly nine months away, the network’s latest association with Tebow actually kicked off this week with ESPN first airing a special feature on Tebow the football player before having him don a suit to serve as an analyst on the network’s all-day coverage of the 2014 BCS National Championship.
“A month ago I got a call from Tim Tebow, asking me to come down to USC where he’s been training and give him a brutally honest evaluation of where he’s at,” began former NFL quarterback and now Tebow’s fellow ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer in the intro to Tebow’s video feature. “And as we all know, this past week, ESPN and Tim agreed upon a deal for him to work with the SEC Network. However, he has not given up on his dream of playing quarterback in the National Football League. My job was to go down there and see if he can now pass well enough for that dream to become a reality.
“Well, I spend 365 days of the year looking at quarterbacks – high school, college, pros – and I don’t have all the answers. I do know this,” Dilfer began in his outro from the feature. “If you put Tim Tebow on a football field right now with four other NFL quarterbacks and you don’t know who they were and you just watched the ball – don’t watch the player, just watch the ball – you wouldn’t know which one was Tim Tebow and you wouldn’t know which one was another NFL quarterback.
“I want you to understand this in this context: This is one of the greatest players that ever played college football and he didn’t know how to pass. I believe now he knows how to pass. Every GM, every scout, every personnel person out there should go at least watch Tim Tebow now because it’s a different guy.”
The day after the video aired, on Jan. 6, 2014, Tebow sat behind ESPN’s desk for the first time as an analyst. He was first introduced as the newest member of the Worldwide Leader in Sports before being asked by the future host of SEC Nation, Joe Tessitore, about Texas hiring former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong as head coach.
Tebow spent all day discussing the game and college football in general on ESPN and its sister stations. He is debut was strong overall – though first-day nervousness certainly showed at times – with well-reasoned analysis and thoughtful parallels made to his past experiences. In other words, exactly what he was paid to do.
He also made headlines with his near-perfect prediction of the final BCS title game. Tebow said Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston would be the difference maker in the fourth quarter and FSU would top Auburn 35-31 (the final score was 34-31).
Whether Tebow gets another legitimate opportunity to earn a shot at an NFL roster spot – like his fans and now apparently Dilfer believe he should – remains to be seen, but he undoubtedly got off on the right foot with his new gig, which is ultimately a good sign for his future both in sports and the public eye.
But don’t think just because Tebow is now employed by the network that had much to do with his [over-]exposure, they’re going to stop talking about his prospects on the gridiron.