Eight Days of Tebow – Tim Tebow's baseball swing through Tampa Bay _ is underway. To mark the occasion, the Times spoke with Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer, who led Florida to national championships in 2006 and 2008. Meyer recruited Tebow out of high school and the two will be forever linked by more than those championships or Tebow's 2007 Heisman Trophy. Meyer, who calls Tebow, "The most impactful player ever to play at the University of Florida," talked baseball, football and all things Tebow. Meyer played minor-league baseball in the Atlanta Braves system, 1982-83.
"It's time-tested with Tim. I go back to watching him play baseball in his junior year of high school. That's when our relationship started. Whether it was on the field or off the field, I've seen him do a lot of things that maybe people said he couldn't do and most people can't do. Once he puts his mind to it, he's one of the few people I've known who I say don't ever bet against him. I'd never bet against Tim Tebow.
"When he puts his laser focus on something, he's going to do it. No amount of time, no amount of injury, no amount of pain, is going to get in the way of that. His greatest gift is toughness. He's going to battle through anything, whether it's injury or criticism or skepticism. Whatever obstacle, he's going to be relentless in overcoming it.
"Tim and I spent a minimum of eight hours together a day (at Florida). It started with lunch and it ended with dinner. Every day. Even on days off, Sundays, he'd come in. I never quite had a relationship like that with any other player.
"What I learned the most of all came off the field. He had the absolute, unchallenged, unwavering belief in living his faith every day. He spent every day trying to make someone else's day brighter. A lot of times you hear that about people to some respect, but not every day.
"Tim makes you look at yourself. And sometimes you don't exactly like what you see. I fell into that. I've never met someone quite like that, someone who, from A to Z, what he's living is real. He makes you self-evaluate. Sometimes I look at his critics and, while I don't feel sorry for them, I wonder what's the issue here?
"There are going to be critics out there who say that this is bad for baseball. Go explain to me again: Why is it bad for baseball? Explain that to me.
"Will he make it? You need to give me the definition of 'making it.' If it's a Hall of Famer, if it's major league baseball, if it's Triple-A. Baseball, I played it in the minors. It's really, really hard. I think he's already made it in some ways. Know what I mean?
"When I first heard (he was trying baseball), I did question it. I know how hard it is. You can't just tough your way through baseball. There's a skill set. Football is so different. So, when I first heard about it, I had to regroup —let's talk about this. We did talk about it. But then he started training, really training, well before anyone knew about it. Then I didn't doubt him one bit. He has got power. He has tightened up his swing. His fielding is going to come along. I'm not surprised at all. I'm pulling for him.
"He has changed my life like he has changed millions of others."
Contact Martin Fennelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly