Editor’s note: This week, “College Football Live” will be counting down the top five individual performances of the last 50 years. Tim Tebow’s 2007 season came in at No. 5. Tune in to “College Football Live” at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Even before Tim Tebow suited up for the Florida Gators as a wide-eyed freshman in 2006, he had achieved rock-star status in Gainesville.
Two years later, he stood in a class by himself when he became the first underclassman to win the Heisman Trophy. He did so by being the first major college football player to run for 20 or more touchdowns and pass for 20 or more touchdowns in a single season.
After helping the Gators win a national championship in 2006, Tebow truly broke out in front of the college football world by smashing into and running over just about every opposing player who came his way.
The same player who once finished a high school football game for his Nease High team in Jacksonville, Fla., with a broken leg broke the spirits of countless defenders with his reckless yet exquisite hit-you-first-and-harder running mentality.
At final count, Tebow threw for 3,286 yards and 32 touchdowns to six interceptions, while running the ball 210 times for 895 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also ran and threw for a score in all 13 of Florida’s games during the 2007 season.
Just when you thought Tebow was down, he spun out or trucked a guy. You knew he was running it up the middle so you stacked the line, but he somehow made you look like an amateur by making your tactic obsolete.
He was so powerful, but so incredibly agile as well. But what pushed him over the edge was his passion and desire to win and be better than everyone else on the field at all times.
He took total command and exacted his will on defenders each and every night -- even in defeat. But he wasn’t just a terror on the field; he was very likable off it, as he displayed a very gentle and genuine persona, signing off each news conference with “God bless.”
Tebow’s run to greatness started off innocently enough. In the opener against Western Kentucky, he threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 38 yards and another score. We’d come to find that this would be considered mild for Tebow.
In his first SEC game as a starter, Tebow threw for 299 yards, rushed for 61 yards, threw two touchdowns and ran for two more. A week later at Ole Miss, he set a school record for quarterbacks with 166 rushing yards on 27 carries and accounted for four more touchdowns.
Through the first eight games he averaged 3.6 scores per game and even though Florida had three losses and was virtually out of the SEC East race, the national scene was enamored with Tebow.
Heisman talk exploded on Nov. 10 on a chilly night in Columbia, S.C.
With star wide receiver Percy Harvin back in Gainesville for health reasons, Tebow was left to command the Gators offense without his most trusted sidekick. What seemed like a recipe for disaster for Tebow and the Gators turned into the ultimate highlight reel for him. South Carolina did everything but contain Tebow as he accounted for seven touchdowns, five rushing, and 424 (304 passing/120 rushing) total yards in Florida’s 51-31 win.
Florida coach Urban Meyer called it a “Heisman performance.”
"Seven touchdowns. Wow. That's pretty good,” Meyer told reporters after the game.
Tebow’s romp continued right into the regular-season finale -- Florida State. FSU linebacker Geno Hayes said that Tebow was “going down” during the week leading up to the affair, but he misjudged his foe.
Tebow fell down in the end zone or across the first-down marker again and again. He saved some of his best and most nimble runs for the Noles, electrifying the Swamp with every step he took and every tackle or defender he shook off.
He accounted for 351 yards and five touchdowns. His teammates urged him to strike the Heisman pose in front of everyone as he knelt down to run the clock out, but the always-humble Tebow laughed it off.
I guess good things come to those who wait.
When Tebow won the Heisman, he grabbed the heavy bronze trophy with help from a broken right hand. He suffered the injury during his drubbing of FSU’s defense, and it was nothing short of perfect that he held his prize with a blue cast slipping out from under his suit sleeve.
Tebow, who also captured the Davey O'Brien and Maxwell awards, said all the right things that night, but what ate at him was that he was winning an award without a championship to show for it. No SEC. No chance at the national title. Even when he owned the room, he still thought of his team first. He thirsted for a national title, and while he had one of the greatest individual seasons in college football history, not winning any sort of championship internally put a stain on it.
Fortunately for Tebow, he didn’t have to wait very long to accomplish that feat.