Tebow speech engraved on plaque

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Tim Tebow's speech following a home loss to Mississippi last September motivated Florida the rest of the season.

Coach Urban Meyer hopes it can do the same for anyone else in Gainesville.

Meyer had Tebow's speech engraved on a plaque and placed outside the front entrance to the new football facility at Florida Field. Although it might seem like a strange move since Tebow still has one year remaining with the Gators, Meyer said he didn't want to wait.

"I'm not interested in 10 years from now because who knows if we're -- I might be toes up somewhere," Meyer said Wednesday as Florida opened spring practice. "I'm not a big fan of, 'Hey, let's wait down the road.' It was a speech that everybody in Gator Nation has a right to see on the side of the building."

Tebow's speech was an emotional promise he made after the Rebels upset Florida 31-30 on Sept. 27. Fighting back tears, Tebow vowed that no one would in the nation would work harder than him and his teammates the rest of the year. The Gators responded by running the table and beating Oklahoma 24-14 to win the program's second national title in three years.

Tebow, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, said Wednesday he hadn't seen the plaque that was put up two weeks ago. He already has a replica of his jersey hanging on a wall inside the stadium, part of a tribute to the school's three Heisman Trophy winners, so getting his speech immortalized might have been a little ho-hum for the 6-foot-3, 245-pound quarterback.

"I guess it's nice because it's the university honoring our team and what we accomplished and what that represents and all the work that we put in," Tebow said. "I guess it's cool to have something you said up there. It means a lot to some people, so I think that's cool."

Tebow said he has been too busy to check out the plaque. He spent spring break on a missionary trip with his family in the Philippines, speaking at elementary schools, high schools and colleges and visiting marketplaces and the orphanage his father helps run.

"Just doing a lot of ministering everywhere possible," Tebow said.

Tebow returned last week, watched several of his teammates work out for NFL scouts, coaches and general managers and then counted down the day until he could get back on the field. He opened spring practice looking to replace receivers Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy and both offensive tackles, but without many more questions.

The Gators return their entire defense and everyone else on offense.

Offensive lineman Matt Patchan was one of a handful of players who missed practice. Patchan injured his left leg in a scooter accident, but Meyer said he could return next week. Defensive tackles John Brown and Torrey Davis, two high-profile recruits two years ago, have left the team. Meyer said neither will be back this fall, but hinted that Davis could return after possibly attending a junior college.

Tebow, meanwhile, took snaps from under center and started work with new quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler in the hurry-up offense. The Gators want to take a look at the hurry-up this spring after seeing how it helped the Sooners reach the title game last season.

Tebow believes it could make a difference, and given what happened after his speech last season, his teammates certainly won't question him.

"I felt like he was a prophet for saying it," linebacker Brandon Spikes said. "He just said it and we got it done. He was a prophet."