Mac Jones, an aspiring quarterback growing up in North Florida, clearly had an idol for Tim Tebow. He was a kid when the lefty won de Heisman and a few national titles.
In Fort Lauderdale, Patrick Surtain also came of age as a Tebow man. Like Jones, he rocked in the blue No. 15 jersey of the star quarterback whose fame extended far beyond the football field.
Neither ended up in Gainesville. Instead, they will face the Gators in the 10th game between Alabama and Florida in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday.
For Jones, there is a certain symmetry in all of this.
Young Jones had already mimicked Tebow on the field.
As a youth quarterback, Jones wrote an inspirational message on the play sheet of his wristband. “BLT composure” was the title and stood for Be Like Tebow. More than a decade later, he is a front-runner who won the Heisman Trophy that Tebow claimed in 2007.
“Mac Jones is going hard, be raw like Tebow, I’m going to win this game,” the 10-year-old’s hand wrote on an index card-sized note that his mother Holly Jones kept for all these years.
Tebow has been on his radar before his Gator years since playing high school football at Nease High School outside of Jacksonville. He attended a Tebow talk at his church as a high school student and when it came time to give a talk in a high school class, Tebow’s legendary promise in the locker room was his topic.
However, meeting his hero required a few hours in line at a Jacksonville mall. Tebow was in town to sign an autograph, so Jones and his family got there early to secure a spot.
“Yes, it was a long time ago,” said Jones Monday, now a front runner to win the Heisman Trophy that Tebow won 13 years ago, “but I certainly remember sitting in line there and just getting a chance to win a And then he drew a picture with me and my family. I think we still have it somewhere in the house. It was just a cool experience and Tim was a great player, but he also did a lot of great things off the field. And I just looked up to him when I was younger. “
So he was probably a bit nervous about meeting the icon?
Um, yes. Probably, ”Jones said with a chuckle. “I suppose so, but it is clear that I am looking up to him now and then looking up to him. Really great guy, meeting him then was really cool. “
Tebow, of course, played against Alabama twice in SEC title games in his last two seasons in Florida. He led the Gators to a comeback victory over the Tide, 31-20 in the 2008 game before Alabama retaliated on December 32-13.
Surtain recalls losing in Florida in 2009 to Greg McElroy, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones and Co.
“I got a little angry when Alabama beat them,” Surtain said Monday. “I really was a Tim Tebow fan.”
His most important memory of that day at the Georgia Dome was Tebow’s emotional epilogue.
“I only remember the ending when he cried,” Surtain said.
Much has changed in the 11 years since that night. Surtain and Jones will face the Gators next to the lawn where the Georgia Dome once stood. Tebow’s NFL career came and went before trying pro baseball.
However, his influence on Jones remains. And that autographed football that Tebow gave him in the mall ten years ago plays a role.
While not the cultural figure that Tebow became, the Alabama quarterback is certainly a celebrity in the Crimson Tide universe.
So when a request comes for his signature, Jones’s mom said her son remembers what that Tebow signature meant to him. Mac Jones pays it out to the next kid who could be a future top athlete just looking for a hero.
Michael Casagrande is a reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @BuienRadarNL or on Facebook.