John Brantley certainly won't mind if a little of Tim Tebow rubs off on him, too.
"Tim has taught me how to become a better leader and has helped me with the mental aspects of the game," Brantley, the Gators' second-team quarterback behind you-know-who, told FanHouse Tuesday afternoon. "Absolutely it has been a great learning experience being able to sit back, watch and learn from Tim.
"Hopefully, he rubs off on me and I also become a great leader and a great college football player."
Brantley appears headed down the right path, according to three persons in the know -- UF head coach Urban Meyer, offensive coordinator Steve Addazio and the former Heisman Trophy winner Tebow.
In fact, Meyer says the Gators have a plan for Brantley to get into games and play meaningful minutes this season behind their senior star. Tebow and UF opens defense of their national championship Sept. 5 at home against Charleston Southern.
"He is starting to earn that right," Meyer said. "Unless he starts to hit reverse on the practice field, in which case we would back off. Johnny has to be ready to go and he's starting to really impress people. He's on track to help us win games."
Brantley, a redshirt sophomore from Ocala, Fla., with strong family ties to UF, gave fans a peek into the future during the Gators' spring game. The strong, sturdy right-hander threw for 265 yards and three touchdowns, ran for two scores and led the Orange team to a 31-21 victory over Tebow's Blue team.
Brantley, who was 14-of-23 with completions of 26, 47 and 50 yards, displayed the game-management skills of an experienced quarterback in the game. He also celebrated in style after it with Tebow as the pair took a victory lap around Florida Field, getting high-fives from some of the 50,000 fans on hand.
"I have a really strong relationship with Johnny B." Tebow said Tuesday during UF's media day.
"He's one of my closest friends on the team. We hang out all the time. I try to encourage him overall with his leadership, being more outspoken. He works hard and does all the right things. I am very excited for him and the things he will do here. I am a big fan."
All seem to agree that Brantley is a big talent, too.
However, that really shouldn't come as a surprise, considering that Brantley's father (John Brantley III) is a former UF quarterback, his uncle (Scot Brantley) is a former UF All-American linebacker and his high school coach (Kerwin Bell) is a former UF record-setting quarterback.
That's plenty of Orange and Blue running in Brantley's veins, even if he did initially commit to the University of Texas during his senior season at Ocala Trinity Catholic but later had a change of heart, citing distance and his affection for the Gators. (Brantley's family has had UF season tickets since 1995).
Brantley led his prep team to a state title as a senior in 2006, he was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year and he broke the Florida state record for career touchdown passes with 99, topping the previous mark of 98 shared by Tebow and former FSU athlete Xavier Lee.
Brantley, at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, made the most of his opportunities for the Gators last season. He went 18-for-28 for 235 yards and three touchdowns, leading UF on 22 overall drives with 10 ending in a touchdown. Brantley played nearly three quarters against the Citadel, completing 8-of-11 passes for 110 yards and a score.
Although Brantley missed time during early preseason workouts following ankle surgery (chronic tendonitis), he has continued to impress in practice. Brantley realizes that he needs to prepare as the Gators' starter in case the aggressive Tebow, who plays with the tact of a dump truck, gets nicked or goes down.
"Johnny is ready to go. He really is," Addazio said.
"Training camp is all about getting reps, working on your toolbox, and being ready to go. We have great confidence in him. He's got a swagger. He can run our playbook. We will adjust and tweak things for what our guys do best. John is a really good athlete. He's buffed up and has got speed. He's a guy that plays the game the way you want people to play it. We will definitely have the ability to utilize everyone with John."
Brantley, well-spoken and polite, says he feels confident and comfortable in UF's offense. He doesn't feel any added pressure following in Tebow's footsteps of if he's forced into action for some reason. While Brantley knows he's earmarked as the team's future starter, he's still enjoying the Tebow era and all that entails. The Gators are eyeing the program's first undefeated season and a second straight BCS title, an unprecedented feat in the 11-year history of the BCS.
"This is something you want to enjoy as an athlete," Brantley said. "I am not worried about next season at all or looking ahead. It's fun being out there every day with Tim and my teammates. Every day is a learning experience.
"We have that chip on our shoulders and we are going out every day in practice and working hard and working to getting back to Atlanta (SEC championship) and accomplishing our goals."