Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top Tebow Moment No. 2: The Jump-Pass

Tim Tebow's college football career has mere days remaining. All this week, a look back at the Top 10 defining moments of his career.

No moment on the field was as typical of Tim Tebow's college career than the original Jump-Pass. (A moment so legendary that it was and is instantly recognized by its nickname.)

The Jump-Pass represented everything that we knew about Tim Tebow -- and everything that the rest of his career would come to be defined by: It wasn't pretty, it was simply effective. And game-winning. And as inspiring to his fans as it was soul-crushing to his opponents.

In October 2006, by the weekend of the LSU game, Tebow was already a cult hero -- arguably the most popular player on the team, though just a freshman. He was a first-down-gaining, touchdown-making dervish of power and enthusiasm. (Orson Swindle of EDSBS had labeled him "Baby Rhino.")

He had previously had a win-influencing (if not precisely game-winning) 4th-down conversion against Tennessee -- but nothing mythological...yet.

Let me go back to a post I wrote just before this season's LSU game to commemorate the Jump-Pass:
Tebow had only 11 plays, but -- oh -- what plays: He was 2/2 passing... with 2 TDs. And he had 9 carries for 35 yards (a respectable 3.9 ypc given that LSU's defense was very good and they knew Tebow would be running) and a rushing TD that tied the score 7-7 at the end of the 1st quarter.

The jump pass came with just seconds to play in the 2nd quarter. The score was still 7-7. Behind Chris Leak, Florida had driven 7 plays, from their own 28 to LSU's 14 (after a UF false-start penalty). Two LSU penalties later, the Gators were on LSU's 4...

Tebow Time.

Tebow plunged through the pile 3 yards, setting up 2nd and goal from LSU's 1, with 28 seconds to play. Then, with the half about to end, Tebow lined up again, with the assumption by everyone -- most of all, by LSU, that Urban would bet on a Tebow plunge.

Instead, Tebow hesitated, faked and went up the air. He double-clutched -- like a basketball shot, I remember Verne Lundquist saying immediately -- and the ball found Tate Casey, who fell backwards like a toddler, gripping the ball like it was the first catch of his life.

The Gators would use the win as a springboard. Despite losing at Auburn one week later -- how deflating! -- Florida would sprint through the SEC title game and into their first national title of the Tebow Era.

Kirk Herbstreit had one of the best Tebow-related quotes ever, which he relayed in the preseason when he was doing his GameDay media tour. He discussed his first trip in person to see Tebow, at The Swamp for the LSU game. And he recounted that Tebow got more crowd support than anyone -- and it was loud:

"I said to (Chris) Fowler it’s like he's Roy Hobbs from the movie 'The Natural.'"

Agreed.

If my infatuation with Tim Tebow didn't come on his very first play as a Gator -- and I would argue its genesis was his first carry in the first game (a TD against Southern Miss in the season-opener) -- the Jump Pass was the moment when I and everyone else were overwhelmed by Tebow Mania. It was his 5th game ever.

To Herbie's point, Malamud's fictional "The Natural" is probably the closest thing to the real-life Tebow myth. (Roy Hobbs and Tim Tebow aren't precise analogies, but they remain appropriate: Both are idealized "naturals" in their given sports.

The only difference: Tebow is real.
Here is my favorite video of the moment -- it's not totally crystal clear, but it captures the spirit in the crowd when it happened.



And here's a better version, if you want to watch it a little more up-close and from multiple angles:



The Complete Top 10
10. Commits to UF
9. I'm Coming Back!
8. Circumcisions
7. Crying
6. 20/20
5. The Virgin
4. Taunting Oklahoma
3. John 3:16
2. The Jump-Pass
1. The Promise

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