GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Tim Tebow did less, and Florida accomplished more.
Tebow didn't come close to matching the gaudy numbers he had last year when he became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy, but he's been maybe even more valuable to the top-ranked Gators this season. Whether it was in the huddle, on the practice field, in the locker room, in meeting rooms, in the weight room, before and after games, Tebow led the way.
He picked up his teammates after the early season loss to Mississippi, motivated everyone to play at a higher level and was at his best when Florida needed him most.
"There's just no way for anyone to know how important he is to us," receiver Louis Murphy said. "He does it all."
Tebow's trophy collection might offer a clue. The two-time Southeastern Conference player of the year took home the Davey O'Brien, Maxwell and Sullivan awards last season. He already picked up the Wuerffel Award this year, and was a finalist for the Maxwell.
He could join a most exclusive club when the Heisman is handed out Saturday night - Archie Griffin is the only two-time winner of college football's most prestigious individual award.
I'm just enjoying it, the opportunity," Tebow said. "I'm more focused on trying to win the national championship. It's a great honor to go up there again. Winning it changed people's perspective of me. All your life you're known as the Heisman winner."
Tebow became the first college football player with at least 20 touchdown passes and 20 rushing touchdowns in 2007, carrying a team that finished 9-4 and out of the SEC race.
His stats were down this season, but his play never dipped. He ranks fifth in the nation in passer rating (176.7) with 28 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. He hasn't been asked to run nearly as much, but still has 564 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns.
Most importantly, he has the Gators one win away from their second national title in three seasons.
"It's something you dream about, something that's very
exciting and something I'm having a great time with," Tebow said.
Tebow acknowledged that winning the Heisman brought added pressure and extra attention from fans, media and opponents. It may have even affected him early on, too. Tebow rarely looked in sync during the first four games. He overthrew receivers, stood in the pocket too long and looked tentative when he did scramble.
"I was trying to be too perfect," he said. "I wanted it to be a perfect season. I wanted to complete every pass. I was just not relaxing and playing."
It cost Florida against Ole Miss. Tebow was sacked three times, had a crucial fumble and was surprisingly stopped on a fourth-down run - all of which helped the Rebels stun the Gators 31-30. Tebow's best play of the season - call it his Heisman moment - came a few minutes after the loss.
He stood behind a podium, choked back tears and promised something good would come from the setback. He put the loss squarely on his shoulders and vowed the Gators would play harder than anyone in the country the rest of the season.
Florida has won nine in a row since, outscoring opponents an average of 49-13 along the way.
"We knew, even after the loss, that we could bounce back," Tebow said. "We knew we could win all our games. We knew we could beat Georgia and still go to the SEC title game, and if other teams lost, we'd have a chance (to play for the national title). We got some momentum and kept riding it and things worked out perfect for us."
Tebow was stellar during the streak. He completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,707 yards and 22 touchdown passes and added 439 yards rushing and 10 scores. And his two fourth-quarter touchdown drives against Alabama in the SEC title game put him right back in the middle of the Heisman race.
"It does matter (to him)," coach Urban Meyer said of the Heisman. "If you had to say either the crystal ball or the Heisman Trophy, it's not even close. Tim is a winner. He wants to win. He's motivated like all of us are. But he's a team-first guy. ... If he could have either/or, he's going to take 12 wins and the chance to hold that crystal ball."
Tebow grew up idolizing 1996 Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel and followed the annual presentation as close as anyone could. Having won the Heisman last year and tracked the race as a voter this time around, Tebow believes he knows what makes someone deserving of the award. He even has a checklist. It includes leadership skills, athletic ability, being able to win games and setting yourself apart from everyone else.
Tebow certainly fits the criteria - again.
Tebow declined to reveal whom he voted for, but he did say he narrowed it down to himself and Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford.
Tebow doesn't plan to do everything he did during last year's trip to New York City. He hopes to minimize the sightseeing and extracurricular activities that can turn a busy weekend into a whirlwind event.
"We're just going to do the bare necessities," he said. "That was really cool, but it took a lot of time and was very busy. It's also nice to rest, too. I don't get to do too much of that. It's a lot of fun, but last year I wasn't getting ready for as big a game as I am this year."
No one can blame Tebow. After all, he has learned that doing less can allow him to accomplish more.
"We did that this season," he said. "There are some games that you think we can go out there and throw the ball 60 times and put up a lot of yards. Yeah, we could do that. But we're more dangerous this way.
"It's been a better season for me, being a quarterback, being a leader, a decision-maker. I've had a better season, maybe not making plays, but everything else, it's been better."