LAKE BUENA VISTA — The loss to Alabama in Saturday's SEC title game still haunts Tim Tebow, and he suspects it will for quite some time.
But Thursday night, the Florida senior quarterback showed once again why he is so revered by Florida fans for what he does off the field.
Tebow walked the red carpet at the college football awards with Kelly Faughnan, a 20-year-old Gator fan from Virginia who is recovering from a brain tumor.
Tebow met the woman while attending a function at the Walt Disney World Resort on Wednesday night. Her final request before having surgery last December was to attend the football awards show, where she hoped to meet Tebow.
She was wearing an "I love Timmy" button, which caught the attention of an ESPN producer. Tebow was introduced to Faughnan, who also suffers from hearing loss and tremors, then spent nearly 45 minutes with her family.
"We got to meet and hang out," Tebow said at the end of his red carpet walk. "I asked her if she wanted to walk the red carpet with me, and so it was fun. She went and got this dress (Thursday)."
Tebow brought joy to Faughnan's evening, but that was about the only bright spot for the Gators. Tebow, cornerback Joe Haden, linebacker Brandon Spikes and punter Chas Henry were shut out of awards for which they were finalists.
Tight end Aaron Hernandez won the Mackey Award for the nation's best tight end, and Maurkice Pouncey won the Rimington for the nation's best center. But those awards were not part of the national telecast on ESPN.
Haden, who was up for the Jim Thorpe Award for best defensive back, said he will decide whether to forgo his senior season for the NFL before the Gators' Sugar Bowl game Jan. 1. But Thursday, he was just enjoying his time with some of the nation's best players.
"It's a lot of fun, and especially getting to chill with Eric (Berry, Tennessee) and Earl (Thomas, Texas)," Haden said.
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her Florida blog at blogs.tampabay.com/gators.