Tebow Blows 'Em Away on Pro Day
"To be honest with you," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said after watching the new and improved Tebow model, "I was blown away."
The man under the microscope felt pretty good about it, too.
"There was a lot of pressure, but thankfully I've been in some other situations where there was pressure," Tebow said after the much-anticipated unveiling of his revamped throwing motion during the University of Florida's pro day. "That's the great thing about work ethic; when you want to change something, if you work on it enough, it'll change."
He definitely changed some perceptions about his stock in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Not to suggest the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Tebow is now in the same stratosphere as Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen, both likely top-10 choices. But teams picking relatively early, like the late-first or early second round, and in the market to develop a young quarterback have reason now to give Tebow a closer look.
An estimated crowd of more than 2,000 filed into the stadium and ignored a light rain to watch about a dozen Gators audition for nearly 100 NFL decision-makers, including five head coaches. More than 150 media credentials were issued for the affair. Even a concessions stand was open.
"Pretty elaborate deal, for a pro day," Carolina coach John Fox said.
And No. 15 was the main event.
At 11:53 a.m., Tebow emerged from the same south end zone tunnel from which he was wildly cheered by 90,000 the last four seasons. He stretched and warmed up while his teammates completed their shuttle-run, three-cone and other drills before he was called to the north end zone to begin.
"C'mon Tim!" shouted a woman from the bleachers wearing Tebow jersey. "Show 'em all how wrong they are!"
It had been nearly six weeks since Tebow's underwhelming performance during Senior Bowl workouts, where his flawed mechanics and footwork were on display for every NFL heavy-hitter to see. The performance only fed the analysis from the likes of Mayock, Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN's Todd McShay and others that Tebow was a mid-round project at best, and should consider moving to H-back.
Following that week in Mobile, Ala., Tebow's agent, Jimmy Sexton, went to work reworking his client. He sent the two-time national champion and former Heisman Trophy winner to Nashville, Tenn., to huddle with a group of quarterback gurus -- led by Zeke Bratkowski, Sam Wyche and Marc Trestman -- to shorten Tebow's elongated delivery, tighten his mechanics and improve his feet.
The idea of Tebow successfully making such radical changes so close to the draft was met with skepticism by just about everyone at the next level.
Not by those working with him, though.
"He is such a unique athlete," Bratkowski said. "People just don't realize how hard he works."
They do now.
After some stock footwork and technique drills, Tebow completed all but two of the 48 passes he threw to his former UF receivers, Riley Cooper, David Nelson and Aaron Hernandez. And he threw them all: outs, fades, slants, rollouts to both sides and deep balls. He wasn't perfect (especially on the latter), and live bullets (as in defenders) weren't flying. But Tebow was better than anyone -- especially the skeptics -- had any reason to expect he would be, especially after the disappointment at the Senior Bowl.
"Every time you want to write him off, you start looking back at the intangibles, the work ethic and the competitiveness," said McShay, one of Tebow's most vocal bashers relative to his pro prospects. "If we're talking about just an average college player with all these obstacles to overcome -- reading progressions in the pocket to mechanics to accuracy throwing the ball -- we're talking about a fifth- or sixth-round pick. ... But he has all it takes to defy the odds. If anyone can do it, he can."
More Mayock: "He looks like a completely different guy. He still gets into a little bit of trouble overthrowing or over-striding. Those are old habits, that's all. And he still has to replicate [the motion] with 11 angry men chasing him one day. But what he's done in six weeks with that delivery and his footwork is a testament to his coaches and the fact he's willing to work so hard."
After the session, all five head coaches -- Mike Tomlin, Tom Coughlin, John Fox, Eric Mangini and Raheem Morris -- greeted Tebow with hugs and words of encouragement.
"They were pleased with the improvements," Tebow said of the feedback. "I don't know what they're saying behind closed doors, but what they said to me was positive, and that's how I'll take it."
New Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren, who has cut ties to both his quarterbacks (Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn) this offseason, spoke to Tebow individually for several minutes. At the NFL combine last month, Holmgren expressed admiration with Tebow's goals of improving, but questioned whether it could be done so quickly -- and if it was necessary.
"It appears he's made some adjustments in a very short period of time," Holmgren said. "I would say this: If you look hard enough at anybody, you can be real picky about stuff, but you better be careful about losing sight of the big picture and of the player he really is; the winner he is; the person he is. There is a lot of good about this young man."
Apparently, there is more following Wednesday's performance than there was before it.
The next phase of the evaluation process will be individual workouts with teams. Tebow said he has "quite a few" scheduled, but did not say how many or with whom. Buffalo, Cleveland, New England, Seattle and Washington reportedly are on that list.
If the next five weeks yield the results of the last five, there could be "quite a few" more.
He's already turned heads and changed minds.
"The people who support and believe in me, that pushes me," Tebow said. "And the people that don't believe in me, that pushes me even more."