In nine years of preparing draft-eligible players for the interview process at the NFL combine, Ken Herock has worked with more than 500 players, including 40 quarterbacks, readying them for the crucial Q-and-A session that each prospect must undergo at the February audition in Indianapolis.
But never has Herock -- a longtime talent evaluator who spent most of his 40 seasons in the league as a personnel director or general manager -- encountered a product like Florida QB Tim Tebow.
In an unsolicited phone call to ESPN.com earlier this week, Herock, who worked with Tebow for several hours, uncharacteristically gushed about the Gators' star.
"He's by far the best [prospect] with whom I've ever worked," said Herock, who operates "Pro Prep," a popular service that simulates a combine interview and familiarizes players on the subjects with which they will be confronted by league scouts. "He walks into a room and he just energizes it. Whatever 'it' is, he's definitely got 'it.' Even for a guy like me, who's done this for so long, you almost get goosebumps."
The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, and one of the most celebrated players in recent college history, Tebow has received decidedly mixed predictions about his NFL future from critics evaluating the 2010 talent pool. Most rate him behind at least two quarterback prospects, Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, and some have him rated even with Colt McCoy of Texas. Citing his low delivery and an elongated release, critics contend that Tebow lacks the physical skills that will make him a first-round selection.
Others suggest Tebow must play another position -- fullback, H-back or perhaps linebacker or safety -- in the NFL. It conjures up memories of 2001 Heisman winner Eric Crouch of Nebraska, a college quarterback drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the third round in 2002 as a wide receiver. He failed to make it at that position or at safety.
The four-hour tutorial designed by Herock doesn't necessarily deal with a player's athletic skills. But Herock has long believed that a top-flight quarterback is necessary to win in the NFL, and during his league career, he drafted prominent passers such as Doug Williams, Steve Young, Chris Miller and Brett Favre. He has an estimable track record at the game's most difficult position. This week he took some time out to watch and evaluate Tebow on the practice field.
Tebow is working on his physical skills with former NFL quarterback Zeke Bratkowski. Onetime NFL quarterbacks coach Marc Trestman, currently head coach of the CFL's Montreal Alouettes, has worked some with Tebow at the blackboard on the mental part and X's and O's of the game. After playing in coach Urban Meyer's spread offense, in which the quarterback is almost never directly under center, Tebow has been working on taking the snap more conventionally.
Herock believes Tebow is making solid progress in addressing what are generally perceived as his physical shortcomings, and noted that his intangibles are hard to ignore.
Said Herock: "His release might be a little low at this point, but a lot of people talked about Philip Rivers' delivery too before he was drafted, and look at what he's done. I've heard all the supposed [negatives]. But I watched [Tebow] on the field and his velocity is good enough, and so is his accuracy. As far as his learning, you don't have to tell him anything twice. And he's a student of the game. I recommended that he watch some tapes of Steve Young, and he said, 'Oh, I've already done that.' He wants to be good. He wants to succeed. And he will succeed."
In some ways, Herock said, Tebow reminds him of Favre, whom he took in the second round of the 1991 draft in Atlanta. The Florida star probably doesn't have Favre's brashness, noted Herock, but his presence is beyond charismatic.
"I've seen him on TV and heard all the stuff about him, and you think to yourself, 'It's too good to be all be true,'" Herock said. "But there is nothing phony about him at all. He's about as genuine as you can get. If there was one word I would use to describe him, it would be 'winner.'
"People will have to convince me he's not a quarterback and that he won't succeed."
His critics aside, Tim Tebow will probably play quarterback in the NFL. There are, however, some franchises that might try the University of Florida star at a different position. Here are some former college quarterbacks who switched positions in the NFL in recent seasons and experienced mixed results:
Josh Cribbs (undrafted, Cleveland, 2005): The former Kent State quarterback is arguably the most electrifying kick returner in the league. The five-year veteran has returned eight kickoffs and one punt for touchdowns, and led the NFL this year for players with more than 40 kickoff returns, posting a 27.5-yard average.
Julian Edelman (seventh round, New England, 2009): Some felt the Patriots chose Edelman, a three-year starter at Kent State, to operate a Wildcat offense. But he developed into a solid slot receiver and punt returner. Edelman had 37 catches for 359 yards in the regular season, then replaced an injured Wes Welker in the playoffs. He had six catches for 44 yards and two touchdowns in the Patriots' wild-card loss.
Matt Jones (first round, Jacksonville, 2005): He was nicknamed "The Freak" after he was timed at 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash before the 2005 draft. In his four seasons with the Jaguars, the former Arkansas quarterback played in 54 games, with 15 starts. He had 166 receptions for 2,153 yards and 15 touchdowns, and led the team with 65 catches in 2008. He was released by the Jags this past March after he was arrested twice in eight months for drug- or alcohol-related charges. Currently out of the league.
Brad Smith (fourth round, New York Jets, 2006): He has become the team's jack-of-many-trades. Smith has played in 60 games and has 60 catches for 513 yards and two touchdowns, and also has 24 kickoff returns for a 22.3-yard average and one score. He has operated the Wildcat, rushing 60 times for 468 yards. He was a four-year starter at Missouri.
Isaiah Stanback (fourth round, Dallas, 2007): He started 19 games at the University of Washington in 2005-06. He was waived by Dallas this past September, signed to the New England practice squad and then elevated in November to the active roster. He has only five receptions for 46 yards in his career, and has returned 13 kickoffs for a 22.8-yard average.
Len Pasquarelli, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.