Cory Mccartney
Wednesday November 21st, 2007

Tim Tebow has counted to infinity -- twice.

When it rains in the Swamp, Tim Tebow doesn't get wet. The rain gets Tim Tebow'd.

These are just some of the "facts" on the Florida quarterback, at least according to, a tribute of absurdly heroic feats in the vein of the infamous Chuck Norris Facts. The Paul Bunyan-esque tall tales have become a running joke among the Gators, who have been known to come up with their own versions, and Tebow himself has a favorite.

"I think the one 'Tim Tebow can believe it's not butter' is pretty funny," he said.

Here's another, more concrete fact regarding the sophomore QB: While the national title race continues to have all the clarity of Lost, the Heisman Trophy is all but Tebow's. At this point, if you're looking for a reason to not give him the trophy, well then you must be looking for a reason.

Tebow is putting together one of the most prolific seasons in college football history. Last Saturday against Florida Atlantic he became the first player in I-A history to pass for 20 touchdowns and run for 20 in the same season and he broke the SEC single-season record of 19 rushing TDs -- a staggering accomplishment when you consider the who's who of backs that have played in the conference, and that his rushing TDs are equal to or more than that of 83 teams, 13 of which are in the Top 25.

"He's about as good as I've seen at quarterback in his sophomore year," said Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger, who coached Joe Namath at Alabama and Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar at Miami.

At this point, the only legitimate knocks on Tebow are that he's not a junior or a senior and that the Gators have three losses. But the fact that he's a sophomore -- and no sophomore has ever won the award -- shouldn't even come into play and despite the losses, no other player is his team's offense to the effect of Tebow, who is responsible for 72 percent of Florida's total yards and TDs.

"My understanding is it goes to the best player in college football, and if he is it as a sophomore, if he's having that type of year to deserve it, then he deserves it," Florida quarterbacks coach Dan Mullen said. "I heard someone say, 'He'll get it as a junior or as a senior.' Well, he might not have that type of year those years. People might look back and say, 'Boy, he was the best player in college football when he was a sophomore and he really didn't get any awards.'"

It's that same clouded judgment that was the logic behind denying Oklahoma freshman Adrian Peterson in 2004, as USC's Matt Leinart took home the bronze statue, or most famously, in 1980 when Georgia freshman Herschel Walker finished third behind seniors George Rogers and Hugh Green.

But Tebow has also become the clear favorite with his biggest competition, Oregon's Dennis Dixon, out for the season. The latest names to pop up in the conversation -- Missouri's Chase Daniel and West Virginia's Pat White -- are still in the national title hunt, which undoubtedly carries significant cachet in the race. But the truth is they will likely have to put up transcendent performances to overtake the Gators QB. Arkansas' Darren McFadden, who may be the best pure talent in the country, just has too much ground to make up.

One thing that Tebow has going for him that so many past underclassmen vying for the award haven't is name recognition. His popularity rose during the Gators national title run last season as a change-of-pace, bulldozing backup to Chris Leak. While he showed a penchant for running as a freshman, his ability to take complete command of Florida's offense as a sophomore -- his first year as a starter -- has been nothing short of staggering.

Tebow is second in the nation in pass efficiency (177.5) and has thrown for 2,870 yards and 26 touchdowns while also running for 749 yards and those record-setting 20 TDs. When the Gators hosted Tennessee on Sept. 15, his first true test as a starter, Tebow had a combined 360 yards and four scores, then totaled 427 yards, including 166 on the ground, to go along with four more TDs in a close win over Ole Miss. But he may have put together the most impressive individual performance this season at South Carolina, as he passed for 304 yards and a pair of TDs and ran for 120 yards and five scores, an exhibition coach Urban Meyer called "a Heisman performance."

"I finish games sometimes and I'll look and I'm like, 'Wow, I didn't know he had that type of game,'" Mullen said. "Especially doing it against the schedule that we've been playing. We play a pretty tough schedule and playing in the SEC putting up those numbers is pretty amazing."

It's not like we haven't seen what Meyer's offense can be in the right hands. Utah's Alex Smith was fourth in the Heisman voting in 2004 at the controls of the spread option. But while Smith seemed to evolve into the offense, Tebow, the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder who thrived in a similar scheme at Nease High in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., seems born for it.

"I don't think there's anybody been conceived as yet who has illustrated a propensity for this offense as he does," Schnellenberger said. "There's not many quarterbacks that are big, athletic enough, fast enough to do the power running and the option running, been able to do both of those equally well and on top of that have a very unique style of running the pass offense."

It's Tebow's linebacker mentality that has endeared him to Gators faithful, and spurned the larger-than-life persona. While so many running quarterbacks at least attempt to avoid contact, Tebow seems to relish it. But this season he's absorbed more hits than a bumper car. While Smith ran for 16 or more carries three times during his final two seasons with Meyer, Tebow has had at least that many in all but three of the Gators games this season, including 27 carries against Ole Miss and 26 vs. the Gamecocks. The blows took their toll against Kentucky, when he bruised his non-throwing shoulder.

"At different times I would get a little banged up or sore, but right now I'm feeling pretty good," Tebow said.

Whether he actually does run or not, just the threat of his taking off has altered the Gators offense. Seriously, when can you remember a guy running a play-fake by himself? But against Kentucky, Tebow started toward the line, stopped and hit Aaron Hernandez for a 1-yard touchdown. It's a wrinkle in the offense that makes the Gators all the more difficult to defend.

"That action by that one player is the action it takes for two players to do in any other formation," Schnellenberger said. "That gives the Gators 12 men to play with and it is hard as hell to defend a team that has 12 when you have 11."

Not everyone is wrapped up in the Tebow for Heisman hype. The Gators close out the regular season with Florida State, and Seminoles linebacker Geno Hayes is making no bones about his game plan for No. 15 Saturday in Gainesville.

"Hopefully we can go out there and shatter his dreams, you know," Hayes said. "That's our plan -- go shatter his dreams for the Heisman."

At this point, it would seem, only old-school Heisman voters who believe Tebow's age is a factor can do that.

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