By Andy Staples
March 17, 2010

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- For all the television time, Internet bandwidth and newsprint used to discuss Tim Tebow's new throwing motion prior to Wednesday's unveiling, anything short of the southpaw walking onto Florida Field and throwing right-handed was bound to be a bitter disappointment.

Yet everyone showed up at Florida's pro day anyway.

More than 100 NFL personnel people came, including head coaches (Carolina's John Fox, Tampa Bay's Raheem Morris, Cleveland's Eric Mangini) and general managers (Cleveland's Mike Holmgren among them). They came to watch four potential first-rounders (defensive end Carlos Dunlap, cornerback Joe Haden, tight end Aaron Hernandez and center Maurkice Pouncey) and Tebow.

The cream of the media crop also came. SI was there. ESPN set up a tent in the corner of Florida Field. (Two shocking developments: Noted Tebow doubter Todd McShay bravely declined the protection of a private security force, and Tom Rinaldi does not have someone walking behind him at all times playing a maudlin piano ballad.) The other major Web outlets were there. Old media stalwarts such as the Boston Globe and Newsday sent reporters. Meanwhile, several thousand fans came, so many that Florida -- always looking to stay among the top revenue-generating athletic departments -- opened the concession stands.

We (the media and the fans) were there only to see Tebow.

Don't believe me? While a throng of fans and reporters waited near the south end zone tunnel for Tebow to emerge and tell us whether there will be six more weeks of winter, John Brantley strode from the tunnel and onto the field. For the NFL fans in the class, Brantley is the redshirt junior who will take over for Tebow this fall at Florida. He throws spirals so beautiful that, when the time comes for his pro day, some NFL scouts might actually weep as they watch the ball in flight. But when Brantley walked onto the field, not one head turned. No one chanted Brantley's name.

That's the power of Tebow. The future starting quarterback at the University of Florida can walk past a pack of orange-and-blue-clad diehards, and they're so blinded by Tebowmania that Brantley may as well be invisible.

(A note to all those who will e-mail to tell me they're sick of reading about Tebow: You saw his photo and clicked on this story anyway, and then you considered using your valuable time to e-mail a sportswriter. Love him or hate him, you're interested in him. That, also, is the power of Tebow.)

The people who will decide where Tebow is drafted are immune to this effect. They have, in their minds, a vision of how an NFL quarterback must throw, and during a stellar college career and a miserable Senior Bowl week, Tebow did not throw that way. He stepped too far. He started his motion with the ball too low. Then, like Don Drysdale or Rick Sutcliffe, he dipped the ball before bringing it back skyward for the throw.

That motion worked brilliantly for Drysdale and Sutcliffe, who didn't have 300-pound defensive tackles chasing them on every pitch. It became obvious during Senior Bowl week that this will not work for Tebow. So, under a cloak of secrecy so tight that Tebow's handlers made people sign confidentiality agreements, Tebow began the process of changing his motion.

The motion Tebow debuted Wednesday certainly looks more like a pro motion. Ball cocked near the ear. Quick release. But will Tebow do that when the aforementioned 300-pounder is giving chase? Will he do it when he's tired? This is what coaches and general managers want to know, and 45 minutes of throwing at pro day aren't going to answer that question.

Tebow said he has practiced the new delivery so many times that when he's being chased, his muscles will remember to keep the ball high and flick it without dipping first. "When you do something so many times, it becomes muscle memory," he said. "You can train yourself to do it under pressure."

So why now? Why didn't Tebow fix his motion during college?

"I always knew I could get a quicker release," Tebow said. "I don't know that it was necessarily ever the right time. ... I don't know if that was the goal. The goal was to complete passes and win games and score touchdowns."

Now the goal is to impress the men who make decisions on draft day. Did he? That's difficult to say. Everyone in a team logo jacket sang the praises of Tebow's intangibles Wednesday, but they always stopped short when asked if they thought Tebow -- new motion and all -- would make a successful NFL quarterback. "I'm going to steer clear of that," Holmgren said. "I think Tim Tebow is one of those guys you root for. It's my opinion that if he's on your team, you're going to have a better football team, and I'll leave it at that."

Whether the NFL folks are being coy because they don't believe in Tebow or because they want to throw other potential Tebow fans off the scent is the great unknown. What we do know is this: New motion or not, someone will take a chance on Tebow. He'll go to camp, and he'll succeed or fail.

Then we can finally stop analyzing him.

Tebow loves his doubters. "The people who don't think I can make it, that pushes me even more," he said. But even he seems weary of feeling like a frog in a biology class -- waiting to be dissected. Wednesday, he perked up when someone broke up a string of questions about his new motion with a question about Brantley.

"He," Tebow said, "has good mechanics."

You May Like