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In the presence of greatness

Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - My earliest college football memory is of the 1978 Cotton Bowl, as an eight-year old boy watched his favorite team (Notre Dame) and his favorite player at the time (Joe Montana) upset the top- ranked Texas Longhorns for the national title. The following season in the same venue, "Joe Cool," as he would later become, rallied the Irish from a 22-point, fourth-quarter deficit to knock off Houston in one of the greatest college football games of all time. The comeback was that much more impressive considering the weather conditions and the fact that Montana was suffering from the flu in the subsequently-named "Chicken Soup Game."

The point of my little stroll down memory lane is to date myself and say that I have been hooked on college football for just over 30 years now. It is not to proclaim Montana to be the greatest football player in college history. He saved that distinction for his professional career.

There have been a ton of great players that could be considered the all-time best over the last three decades. I limit this topic to that time frame because I simply don't remember football before then.

Herschel Walker has to be near the top of everyone's list, doesn't he? The 1982 Heisman Trophy winner was a three-time consensus All-American and led Georgia to an undefeated season and a national championship with a win over the Irish in the Sugar Bowl (1982). Other running backs that could earn the title of "all-time best" include Bo Jackson (Auburn), Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State), Ricky Williams (Texas), Marshall Faulk (San Diego State), Marcus Allen (USC)...The list goes on and on.

As far as the best quarterbacks over the last 30 years, the aforementioned Montana, although legendary as a pro, comes up a bit short in terms of this list. The New England area could lay claim to the top college quarterback in the diminutive form of Boston College's Doug Flutie. The 1984 Heisman Trophy winner will always be remembered for the "Hail Flutie" play against Miami that year. He single-handedly put Boston College on the college football map, where it remains to this day. Other QBs worthy of mention include Tommie Frazier (Nebraska), Matt Leinart (USC), Danny Wuerffel (Florida), Charlie Ward (Florida State) and Tim Tebow (Florida).

That's right, I am starting to think that the current Gators quarterback may just be the best college football player I have ever seen (live that is).

Tim Tebow has shown the ability to dominate the game both with his arm and legs.
I mean, what hasn't the young man done? After playing a key role in Florida's national championship season as a freshman, Tebow followed that up with becoming the first-ever underclassman (freshman or sophomore) to win the Heisman Trophy in 2007. If that weren't enough, Tebow again led the Gators to a national title this past season and will return to attempt the trifecta in 2009.

Tebow has shown the ability to dominate the game both with his arm and legs, as his stats are ridiculous (over 6,300 passing yards and 67 TDs, while amassing over 2,000 rushing yards and another 43 scores), but it is his leadership qualities that give him his greatest advantage and catapult him to the top of the heap. His ability to command a huddle and an entire team, for that matter, is exactly what all the greats did, and what separates him from his peers today.

His awkward delivery is well-documented and scrutinized, and his game at this time probably doesn't translate perfectly to the NFL, especially given the league's usual affection for classic, drop-back, pocket passers.

To rectify that, however, Florida head coach Urban Meyer is going to put him under center more, as well as give him a more conventional, over-the-top delivery. It only seems fair considering all that Tebow has done for Meyer and the Florida program.

Every team on Florida's schedule and the SEC as a whole, for that matter, probably hopes the experiment is a disaster.

However, in seeing Tebow's body of work over the last couple of seasons, is that reasonable, or just wishful thinking?

Tebow has dominated the competition at the college level and that is what he will be best remembered for.

The bottom line is that it is fun to watch Tebow play the game, something that I have tried to share with my two teenage sons the last two years.

Who knows, 20 years from now, my boys may be arguing the merits of Tebow and just how well the stars of that era match up with Florida's gifted signal- caller.

That argument alone will help define his greatness.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.
Scott Haynes
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