Tim Tebow's return ensures that the Gators will carry a colossal bull's-eye in 2009

Tebow, Gators carry colossal bull's-eye

GAINESVILLE —

We knew he could run, pass and leap tall buildings in a single bound. But who knew Tim Tebow was also an aspiring thespian?

He had 35,000 people going Sunday. First they were going "One More Year!" Then they were going into a panic when Tebow got on stage and said nothing about his plans.

Then he stopped, turned around and made like Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

I shall return!

"Tim had something up his sleeve," Louis Murphy said.

Now he'll have a bull's-eye on his back. It will be approximately the size of Texas, not to mention USC, Alabama and Siberia.

"We always have a bull's-eye at Florida," Tebow shrugged, "whether we're ranked No. 1 or No. 20."

Yeah, but next year's team will make an all-time juicy target. It will be ranked No. 1. Tebow will be favored to win a second Heisman. The Gators are in line to win their third national title in four years.

All that means Florida will have more to play for than any college team in history. It also means every opponent will have more to play for. What rival fan wouldn't give up their season tickets to see Florida's raging bull lassoed and branded?

And you know what? That could be all the Gators need to go unbeaten.

They go as Tebow goes, and you know what makes Tebow go. If not, ask Georgia or Alabama or Oklahoma, where nobody now thinks Tebow would be the fourth-best quarterback in the Big 12.

The more motivated people are to stop him, the more motivated Tebow is to turn them into road kill. Not only will opponents be frothing over Tebow next season, there will be plenty of skeptics waiting to say he should have turned pro.

They've been saying Tebow has nowhere to go but down by staying. If he doesn't win another Heisman and/or a national title, next season will be a failure.

That's like saying if Tiger Woods never wins another golf tournament his career will be a bust. You can't take away what Tebow has already done.

College football has never had a player be in line to win two Heismans and three national titles. Even if you hope Tebow fails at both, you should admire him for at least sticking around to try.

It will sure make for a more intriguing story line than "Can John Brantley Fill Tebow's Shoes?" And it's not as if Tebow was going to be a first-round draft pick.

He'll improve his NFL odds by sticking around and working with new quarterback coach Scott Loeffler. Tebow could always get hurt, but he'll surely have an insurance policy in place to cover potential earnings losses.

So there's really no downside, unless you hate the sight of Urban Meyer taking Gatorade showers. He called this year's team "one of the greatest in college football history." Then he introduced the senior class, culminating with the starters.

All three of them.

Percy Harvin may also leave, but indications are Brandon Spikes is staying. That means the entire defense will return. That defense gave up 11 touchdowns in its final eight games.

Now factor in the return of Tebow and cover your ears if you can't stand hype. If this year's team was one of the greatest in college football history, what should that make next year's?

The 1985 Chicago Bears?

The 2008 USC Trojans?

They were supposedly unbeatable until Oregon State came along and everybody outside Los Angeles rejoiced. Nobody likes a bully, and Sunday's news guarantees that Florida will be college football's premier target.

Luckily for the Gators, nobody enjoys wearing a bull's-eye more than Tim Tebow.

David Whitley can be reached at dwhitley@orlandosentinel.com

'Oh, by the way, let's do it again.

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