GAINESVILLE — It's hard to recall the last southpaw who commanded this much attention and sparked this much intrigue. Sandy Koufax and Steve Carlton come to mind.
Okay, maybe former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow hasn't reached that level of greatness in his sport. But on Wednesday, before a host of NFL decision-makers and a couple of thousand Gator fans playing hooky from work, Tebow took a big step toward establishing himself as a professional quarterback.
At UF's pro day at Florida Field, Tebow 2.0 was unveiled, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner displaying a revamped throwing motion after being criticized for his mechanics at the Senior Bowl in January despite a 35-6 record as a starter. After not throwing at the NFL combine last month, his performance Wednesday went a long way toward determining his status in next month's draft.
Nearly gone is the elongated, sidearm windup. And he seems to have worked diligently at ridding himself of the habit of bringing the ball below his belt as he prepared to deliver.
Tebow and teammates such as cornerback Joe Haden and linebacker Brandon Spikes were watched by dozens of NFL personnel, including Giants coach Tom Coughlin, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and Browns coach Eric Mangini.
It's unclear how much Tebow helped his stock, but he didn't hurt it.
"There are subtle differences, and those of us who know the position a little bit and watch the position and coach the position, you saw it," said Browns president Mike Holmgren. "He's worked hard on changing some of his technique. It's an important day for me."
Tebow, 22, reworked his technique in less than two months with the help of quarterback gurus, including Jon Gruden and Zeke Bratkowski, the latter of whom scripted Wednesday's workout.
Tebow felt he could make the changes if he dedicated himself, and that the move would reveal something about his character.
"The question is why would you wait until you get drafted to start working on some of the things you need to work on?" Tebow said. "For me, if I know I'm going to do something, I'm not going to wait. I wasn't scared about coming out and not being perfect. I think (it's about) trying to be coachable and the coachability factor and working on what I think I need to work on. Not being stubborn and saying 'My way is the best way.' "
The changes were aimed at getting the ball off quicker.
"When I throw the ball, (I now) take a shorter step so I don't have such a wide base," Tebow said. "The other thing would be holding the ball a little higher and not taking it down and around in a sort of windmill motion. That's just quickening (the delivery)."
Tebow seemed to convert at least one critic on Wednesday. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay attended and spoke glowingly about Tebow's ability to quickly overhaul his motion. McShay said Tebow "won't go past the second round," a much different assessment than he offered in January.
"I was asked a lot of questions," Bratkowski said, "by a lot of teams that have a quandary at quarterback."
Perhaps some of them see Tebow as the solution.
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected]