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Published: Sunday, 12/14/2008

Voter explains choice for Tebow

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

After last night's announcement that Sam Bradford of Oklahoma had won the Heisman Trophy, there should be no demands for a recount, no armchair quarterbacking, no calls for the system to be changed.

This was a can't-miss election, because all three finalists for college football's most prestigious honor were deserving of the award. The 900-plus eligible voters, made up of media members and past winners of the Heisman, were forced to pick just one.

So from this trio of incredibly talented quarterbacks, Bradford won it, and Tim Tebow of Florida and Colt McCoy of Texas did not.

Bradford is a great story, a phenomenal athlete, a wonderful young man, and he has taken his team to the national championship game. I don't have even the slightest problem with Bradford winning the Heisman.

But for the second year in a row, my vote went for Tebow, last year's winner.

Without question, McCoy, Tebow and Bradford have been outstanding this season. And according to the criteria each voter should feel obliged to follow, the Heisman Trophy goes to "the most outstanding college football player" in the country.

And Tebow had a slight edge in the "most" department. He has just a tad more of "it", that ever-elusive intangible.

Remember, the most recognizable statue in sports does not go to the stat king, the winner of a beauty contest, the leader in a popularity poll, or as a testament to which school pulled together the most clever marketing campaign.

And the award also has absolutely nothing to do with NFL potential, or how high you think a player might go in the NFL Draft. In some cases, the talents of outstanding college football players do not translate well in the professional ranks, as we've seen with recent Heisman Trophy winners Eric Crouch, Chris Weinke, and Jason White.

This 25-pound bronze trophy is a pure college football award. And like his colleagues on that stage in New York City last night. Tebow epitomizes all that is good and treasured in college football.

Besides being a terrific football player whose zest for the game is electric and contagious, Tebow is one of those truly rare "freaks" of the game, for lack of a more accurate term. He is a gifted quarterback with a tight end's body, and the rugged mentality of a 1960s-era fullback.

His passion seems unmatched. He tapped that emotional fire when he led Florida past top-ranked Alabama last week, and into the national title game. He is the consummate leader with impeccable character - on the field, in the locker room, on campus, in class, in church, and even around the world, yes, the world.

There is only a one word explanation for why there are Gators' fans today in Croatia, Thailand and the Philippines -- Tebow. In the three breaks he had from football since last year's bowl game, the Florida junior made mission trips to those three distant lands. It was no vacation - he visited prisons, schools, orphanages and hospitals.

It wasn't image enhancement or part of a campaign to build up his character. Tebow, who was home-schooled by his missionary parents, has been making such trips for years.

Tebow's 2008 season might not have been as statistically stunning as last year's was, but if this came down to just numbers, there would be no way to sort things out between the three Heisman Trophy finalists. They are all outstanding college football players. But in my mind, Tim Tebow was just the most outstanding.

- Matt Markey



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