Photo Credit: University of Florida Athletics Association
One of the most influential players in Florida Gators football history, Tim Tebow is slated to make his return to the NFL after nine years since playing a regular-season game.
With the return bringing upon a reunion with former Florida head coach Urban Meyer in Jacksonville with the Jaguars, Tebow would be playing the tight end position, something he hasn't done since high school.
Since it was reported by both NFL Media and ESPN that Tebow would be making his return to the NFL with the Jaguars, plenty of criticisms have been cast down to the Jaguars, particularly from several current and former NFL players who have not taken kindly to the move.
There is some merit to the criticism. The perception of the move is that the connection between Meyer and Tebow is the sole reason for the move; without it, Tebow wouldn't be making the comeback that he is attempting. While there is no certain way of knowing that this isn't simply a coincidence, it does make sense.
Tebow was originally selected in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He would spend just three years of regular-season action in the NFL, with another three seasons on a team's pre-season roster. He hasn't been in the NFL since 2015 and has since spent several seasons playing baseball in the Minor League with the New York Mets.
Tebow eventually would announce his retirement from baseball earlier this year, and now wants to take his talents back to where it all began in football.
The issue comes in just that: Tebow hasn't played the tight end position at a high level, hasn't been training for very long to make his return to football, focusing on his philanthropy work and baseball over the past several years, and is now 33 years old.
For the large majority of players, there would be zero opportunity for them. In fact, there has never been a former NFL player come back to the NFL after spending nine years away from the regular season. It's essentially unprecedented.
The only player that comes to mind that can draw a semi-similar comparison is former USC commit, linebacker Brian Banks. Banks was committed to the program in 2002.
Banks would never make it to college football nor the NFL after being falsely accused of rape in high school. He would, however, receive his opportunity in the NFL in 2013, signing as an undrafted free agent with the Atlanta Falcons.
Banks, however, seems like an outlier. While he was a special case, in the end, the circumstances surrounding his opportunity are different. Banks spent time trying out for several teams largely due to his relationship with his would-be former head coach at USC, Pete Carroll, now the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.
After unsuccessfully landing a gig in 2012, Banks played for the Las Vegas Locomotives of the UFL, a now-debunked league. He appeared in just two games.
Now, Tebow is slated to make a similar return, having not played much football in years, albeit Banks did not play a different position, continue his journey as a linebacker. What he brings to the table certainly should be in question as a football player, however, his impact as a presence likely can't be denied.
During his years at Florida, Tebow influenced the entire university through his words and what he brought to the table as an inspiration to many, including those on his football team. He was beloved, not only by fans and onlookers but by coaches, teammates and everyone in between.
It's likely that the Jaguars would hope to continue that sort of inspiration within its own locker room. The question will soon become, however, how inspirational could a fifth-string tight end bring to the table?
The Jaguars are heading into a season with plenty of questions at its tight end position. It signed just one player in free agency in Chris Manhertz while drafting former Ohio State tight end Luke Farrell. Neither player have much experience catching the football.
Tebow will get his chance to make the Jaguars roster, but there's plenty of reason to criticize the move from the Jacksonville perspective. While doubting Tebow, in general, has been frowned upon, the question of what exactly he would bring is certainly valid. Time will tell.