TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama and Florida are meeting for a record 10th time in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game on Saturday and this specific contest will have very special meaning for a couple of the Crimson Tide's star players.
For starters, cornerback Patrick Surtain II, who grew up and played high school football in Plantation, Fla., recalls a time in his childhood, when he watched the 2009 SEC title game, where the Crimson Tide and Gators faced off, with Alabama taking down the defending national champions that season, 31-20.
"I was some parts of a Gator fan," Surtain said via Zoom to reporters on Monday. "I used to be a big Tim Tebow fan. I remember wearing his jersey one time, and I kind of got a little mad when Alabama beat them. I was really a Tim Tebow fan."
Little did he know at that time, that he would be suiting up for No. 1-ranked Alabama just 11 years later.
The same can be said for Jacksonville, Fla. native, Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones, as he also grew up idolizing the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner.
"Yeah, that was a long time ago," Jones said laughing as he told a story of when he first met Tebow after he won the Heisman at a local mall. "I definitely remember that opportunity to wait in line and get a picture with him and then him signing the picture with me and my family. I think we still have it somewhere in the house. It was a cool experience.
"Tim is a great player, but he also did a lot of great things off the field and I looked up to him when I was younger. Being able to meet him then was really cool."
Saturday's meeting will be the fifth time that the Crimson Tide has faced No. 11 Florida in the league's title game since coach Nick Saban has arrived in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama is 3-1 in those previous four matchups, but this is the strongest Gators team since 2009, when Tebow was leading the charge, and Jones says there are a few similarities with Florida's offense back then to now, which is led by quarterback Kyle Trask.
"I think it goes back to that it's two great schools, Florida and Alabama," Jones said. "They have a bunch of great players and good coaches. Watching a team back then and seeing how great they were, you see some similarities, but football has evolved a little since then. Each team is its own team.
"Growing up and watching those teams was awesome. You just got to learn the example of good college football."
If all bodes well for Jones, he could end up being the Crimson Tide's first signal caller to win the Heisman Trophy after a solid performance against his childhood idol's former team.
"Oh, I just remember the ending when he was crying," Surtain said when asked about what comes to mind when thinking about the 2009 game.
"That’s all I remember."