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It was perhaps the biggest no-brainer in the history of college football yet it’s been discussed and debated on this site and others as if there was even a decision to be made.
There's no question that it was newsworthy that Tim Tebow decided to return to Florida for his senior season in 2009. Although the news was as surprising as a candidate everyone knew would be running for office "officially" announcing his candidacy. It basically confirmed what everyone knew or at should have known.
Now, if this were Peyton Manning or Matt Leinart or even Sam Bradford (who many have projected as a top pick in the NFL draft), I can understand the debate. I mean, there aren’t many kids who would turn down a chance to be the No. 1 pick in the draft (or at least guaranteed to be in the top 10) to return to college.
JaMarcus Russell, for example, skipped his senior season at LSU and was the top pick of the Oakland Raiders in 2007, signing a six-year, $61 million deal, $29 million of which was guaranteed.
That was another no-brainer. Sure, Russell could have come back to school and quarterbacked LSU to a national championship, and maybe even have won the Heisman, but it’s hard to turn down a chance to be the top overall pick and become one of the league’s highest paid players as a rookie.
What many people seem to be forgetting about Tebow (and I don't know why because it's been discussed ad nauseam) is that he isn't a first-round draft pick. He isn't even a first-day pick. Most draft experts and scouts have him slotted anywhere between a third- to fourth-round pick. They have him playing just about every position except for quarterback, unless he’s taking the occasional snap from the "Wildcat" formation, which will likely last about as long in the ever-evolving NFL as the "Run & Shoot."
So let’s give Tebow the benefit of the doubt and say he impresses everyone in his interviews (if Fox's Thom Brennaman was an NFL GM, Tebow would likely be taken first overall based on this portion of the evaluation) and does well in his workouts. Let's say he moves up to a second-round pick and gets selected around where the Packers took Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm last year. He would likely sign a similar four-year, $2.6 million contract and be sitting on the bench. Now that's certainly a great gig to have out of college, but it's not a deal that won't be there next year or one that can't possibly be bettered.
The ballpark figure of what Tebow is likely to get is important because the NCAA now offers up to $3 million of coverage for football players. Now, we all know "Superman," er, Tebow is indestructible, but now he at least has the peace of mind of knowing that if anything were to happen to him, his disability insurance would more than cover the cost of his initial pro contract.
I'm sure Tebow, however, isn't thinking about contract figures or position changes in the NFL. He is on top of the world right now. People often say that the best years of your life are in college. Can you imagine what Tebow's college years have been like and what his last year will be like? Florida coach Urban Meyer half-jokingly said Tebow's fame might even border Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods during his senior season.
How much do you think Leinart -- who gave up No. 1-pick money to come back to school after winning the Heisman and a couple national championships a few years ago -- would like to have another year or two or three back in college? Sure, he’s a millionaire back-up quarterback on a team in the NFC Championship Game now but nothing will ever match the experiences he had as a starting quarterback in college.
There's no price you can put on that. There will be plenty of time for Tebow to learn how to be an H-back or run the "Wildcat" or hold a clipboard or do whatever a team like the Lions, Rams or Cheifs pay him to do. But he'll never again have the chance to do what he's doing at Florida and in college football. Tebow right now is living a dream we all wish we could have; asking him to wake up early and come back to the real world would be ridiculous.