With NFL hopes dashed, former Gator Tim Tebow to give baseball a try

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Tim Tebow's NFL career was fleeting. So now the former Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Florida is turning to baseball. (Getty Images)
Tim Tebow’s NFL career was fleeting. So now the former Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Florida is turning to baseball. (Getty Images)

DAVIE – The Miami Dolphins never pursued Tim Tebow. But the Miami Marlins could.

Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback from the University of Florida, apparently has ended his pursuit of returning to the NFL and now will turn his attention to baseball, a sport he has not played since 2005.

Tebow plans to hold a workout for major league baseball teams this month, according to his agents. Tebow was an all-state baseball player at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach, hitting .494 as a junior, before giving up the sport to pursue football.

Tebow, who currently works for ESPN, has been training in Arizona and Los Angeles this season, working on his hitting and outfield skills.

“Tim’s athletic ability, his work ethic, his leadership and his competitiveness were evident in football and will show in baseball,” said Tebow’s football agent, Jimmy Sexton. “Knowing Tim’s passion and desire, we won’t be surprised by anything he accomplishes.”

During an interview with the Associated Press this summer, Tebow never mentioned a baseball career but said coaching or politics could be in his future.

Tebow, who turns 29 Sunday, was a first round draft pick of the Broncos (25th overall) in 2010 and played two seasons in Denver and one with the Jets before his career fizzled out.

After playing in nine games (starting three) in 2010, Tebow took over the starting job in Denver in 2011 leading the Broncos to a playoff win over Pittsburgh before losing to New England. Although he was 7-4 during the regular season, he completed just 46.5 percent of his passes for 1,729 yards 12 TDs and six INTs. He was 19 of 47 for 452 yards, two TDs and no picks in the playoffs.

He played in 12 games for the Jets in 2012, completing 6 of 8 passes. Tebow has spent time with the Patriots (2013) and Eagles (2015) without ever making the team.

All 30 major league baseball teams will be invited to Tebow’s workout.

Luke Del Rio not assuming anything in Gators’ QB competition, despite Spurrier endorsement

Florida Gators quarterbacks Austin Appleby (12) and Luke Del Rio (14) are competing for the starting job this camp. (TIm Casey/UAA Communications)
Florida Gators quarterbacks Austin Appleby (12) and Luke Del Rio (14) are competing for the starting job this camp. (TIm Casey/UAA Communications)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Luke Del Rio, the leader in Florida’s open quarterback competition entering preseason camp, heard along with everyone else last week the strong endorsement he received from former Gators coach and newly minted ambassador/consultant Steve Spurrier.

And he was no doubt ready for the inevitable question Wednesday at the Gators’ media day on the eve of the team’s first practice.

“That kind of blew up,” Del Rio said playfully of Spurrier’s comments. “I appreciate the insight, but it’s still an open competition.”

In talking with reporters last Friday about returning to his alma mater, Spurrier made headlines by inadvertently declaring Del Rio the Gators’ new starting quarterback.

Florida head coach Jim McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier have yet to make the same declaration, though, and didn’t offer anything new Wednesday while saying they want to see how the team’s offensive players feed off both Del Rio and Austin Appleby, a graduate transfer from Purdue, during camp.

“We’ll make the decision when we’re ready to make the decision and when we think the timing’s right,” Nussmeier said. “I don’t think you can sit here today and say it’s this day or that day.”

Said McElwain: “I really believe, to play successful football at the quarterback position, the people around you, A, have to believe; and B, they have got to trust in everything you’re doing; and C, their play is elevated based on how you go about playing the position. …

“So I’ll see how the guys respond to them when they are in the huddle, when they are into the situations that we, you know, set up during practice. That really is kind of, to me, the key to success at the position.”

Pressed for any further commitment to Del Rio’s grip on the job, McElwain wasn’t biting.

“Has anything ever changed here?” he joked, keeping whatever deeper opinions he has to himself.

So the competition continues as the Gators look to find stability at quarterback. They’ve struggled to find any such stability since Will Grier’s season ended with a suspension for a positive PED test, and Treon Harris was inconsistent in replacing him. Both Grier and Harris have since transferred out of the program.

Del Rio, meanwhile, is about as well traveled as a redshirt sophomore can be.

The son of Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio, he spent the 2013 season at Alabama as a walk-on, before joining Oregon State in 2014 and then sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules after arriving at Florida. But he had that year to absorb the Gators offense

On Wednesday, he thought back to the circuitous path that has brought him to this opportunity now.

“It was tough. It definitely was, going to three different schools,” he said. “I basically went to Alabama because it was a dream of mine. I wanted to play for Coach [Nick] Saban, I wanted to play with the best in the country, they were the national champions at the time. It was a mixture of things [causing me to leave] Alabama, and then at Oregon State it was pretty much strictly coaching staff changes. But I couldn’t be happier to be here.”

Del Rio recounted how he was told during spring practice in 2015, after Oregon State head coach Mike Riley had left for Nebraska and a new staff had taken over, that he was not part of the Beavers’ future.

“It was a Tuesday, it was like 6:50 in the morning when they told me and I still had to go practice because it was during spring practice. It hurt a lot,” he said. “I asked them, ‘So you want me to transfer?’ And they basically said, ‘Look, we’re not telling you to do anything; we’re just telling you you won’t play here. …

“Alabama was more complicated, but Oregon State was very difficult. I had a good thing going, I was settled, but once again, I’m happy to be here.”

Del Rio said McElwain had recruited him “very hard” when he was the head coach at Colorado State. He didn’t want to play in the altitude of Colorado, though.

Instead, they find themselves together now in Gainesville trying to jumpstart an offense that averaged just 12.8 points over the final six games of last season.

Del Rio has only thrown 18 passes in college — all in 2014 with Oregon State — but he’s had that extra year in the program to get up to speed with the offense here. Now he has this preseason camp to finally prove whether he’s indeed the best option.

“I’m confident in my ability,” he said. “I can really only control what I can control. I feel if I play to the best of my ability then I’ll have a good shot at winning the job.”

As for Appleby, he said he had far easier paths to playing time when he decided to leave Purdue for his final year of eligibility.

He started 11 games and played in 17 over three seasons with the Boilermakers, passing for 2,777 career yards, 19 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

Appleby said he had about two weeks to find a new home in-between getting his release from Purdue and a recruiting dead period, but that was enough time to drum up considerable interest — including several schools that could have offered him a better guarantee of playing time.

“There was a number of them. People in this conference, people in MAC-level conferences, all the way in between, but for me, I want to be the very best I can be,” Appleby said. “And Coach Mac, Coach Nuss, these teammates, for me there was something about this place that I couldn’t pass it up. …

“It didn’t take long for me to be 100 percent sold on what the Gators were offering and what a special thing we have brewing here and how I can be a part of that.”

While Del Rio exited the spring as the leader in the quarterback competition, Appleby says he’s had the best summer of his collegiate career. He said he has come a long way in terms of his understanding of the offense and his chemistry with the receivers.

“I have a world of confidence. I had one of my best summers I’ve ever had since becoming a college football player, really taking the opportunity to learn and develop my plan within the plan — not just understanding the plays, but understanding why we’re calling them, what we’re trying to accomplish, who runs it the best, where do my eyes need to be …,” he said.

“Those were things I was a little behind in the spring time, trying to catch up. I didn’t even know where to run from drill to drill in practice. Now I’ve got my feet under me, I understand what we’re trying to accomplish as an offense, I understand the coaches and I can just go be an extension of them and affect my teammates in positive ways.

“I’m right where I need to be. I couldn’t be more confident.”

Between those two options, Nussmeier said he feels good about the depth the Gators have this year at such a crucial position.

“Obviously as we came out of spring, we talked about Luke had a slight edge, and we’re going to let them compete and see where we end up,” he said.

And eventually somebody on the current coaching staff will make a declaration as to who will actually get the first shot at the job.

Florida gives sneak peek at new football cleats

(Courtesy of @GatorsEquipment on Twitter)
(Courtesy of @GatorsEquipment on Twitter)

Florida’s equipment staff gave fans a sneak peek at the shoes they can expect the Gators to have on when they take the field this season.

In a tweet, the staff sent out photos of cleats that will be worn by some players. The white Nike shoes feature a gator skin pattern, an orange swoosh and orange designs along the side. A large Florida Gator logo is also featured on the inside of the shoe.

Police release security-cam footage in Rick Wells, Tyrie Cleveland incident

Florida freshmen Tyrie Cleveland (left) and Rick Wells. (Photo courtesy of Cleveland)
Florida freshmen Tyrie Cleveland (left) and Rick Wells. (Photo courtesy of Cleveland)

Security camera footage of the incident which led to the arrest of two Florida football players was released on Monday.

According to The Alligator, the University Police released video from the incident in compliance with a public records request.

It depicts an incident at Keys Residential Complex, involving freshman Gators receivers Rick Wells and Tyrie Cleveland, who appear to be shooting pellet guns into the building at freshman wide receiver Joshua Hammond, who appears to place a broom in the door during the video.

The video, which contained two different camera angles, can be watched here.

Wells and Cleveland were arrested following the July incident, and were both charged with criminal mischief for damaging property worth $1,000 or more (third-degree felony) and shooting a missile inside an occupied dwelling (second-degree felony).

Florida coach Jim McElwain released an official statement shortly after the arrest, but chose to keep things short and to the point:

SEC Country’s Zach Abolverdi recently wrote that the incident is likely to be inconsequential in the big picture of the career for the 18 year olds.

Gators land commitment from 4-star CB Marco Wilson

Marco Wilson, a 4-star cornerback from Fort Lauderdale. (Chris Kirschner/AJC)
Marco Wilson, a 4-star cornerback from Fort Lauderdale. (Chris Kirschner/AJC)

Another Wilson is headed to Florida.

The Gators landed a huge verbal commitment Monday from 4-star cornerback Quincy Wilson from American Heritage High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He chose UF over Miami, Georgia, Ohio State and Southern Cal.

“I love Florida,” Wilson told SEC Country. “I have a really strong relationship with the coaches. They talk to me almost every day. I love that about them. I see what they’re doing over there.”

The 6-foot, 180-pound prospect is ranked No. 27 nationally at his position, but appears to be much more elite with an offer list of more than 30 schools. His missed his entire junior season due to a torn ACL, which hurt his rankings.

Wilson is the younger brother of Florida junior cornerback Quincy Wilson, a former Under Armour All-American who has played in every game the past two seasons with 11 starts.

UF is up to 13 members in its 2017 class, and nine of them are rated 4-star prospects by at least two recruiting services.

What it means: Cornerback may the biggest priority for the Gators in this cycle, and they now have a pair of 4-star commits (Elijah Blades and Wilson). Florida is expected to land two more cornerbacks this month in Shawn Davis and Brad Stewart, which would certainly fill the needs at the position from both a quality and quantity standpoint.

Unless otherwise indicated, ratings and rankings come from the 247Sports Composite. 

Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

Division winners to unranked? Gators getting no preseason love

Florida head coach Jim McElwain on the sidelines against Michigan during the first half in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl at the Orlando Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Friday, Jan. 1, 2016. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)
Florida head coach Jim McElwain on the sidelines against Michigan during the first half in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl at the Orlando Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Friday, Jan. 1, 2016. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida football team begins fall training camp Wednesday, exactly one month from the season opener against UMass.

When the Gators take Steve Spurrier Field on Sept. 3, they could be one of few reigning SEC division winners to start a year unranked. But with a total of 11 starters gone from 2015, it’s understandable why prognosticators have their doubts about UF.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said at SEC Media Days. “And yet, it’s kind of part of the fun of it.”

McElwain won SEC Coach of the Year last season after his team won 10 games and played for the conference title for the first time since 2009. But UF will have to beat the odds — and preseason predictions — to make it back to Atlanta this year.

The Gators were picked to finish second in the Eastern division behind Tennessee, and only one media outlet (Athlon Sports) has them in the top 25. Phil Steele, Bleacher Report, Sports Illustrated, Sporting News and Lindy’s Sports all left Florida out of their preseason rankings.

Since the first SEC Championship Game in 1992, the conference champion has always been ranked the following year. Only four division winners on the losing end of the title game (Arkansas twice, Auburn, Mississippi State) entered the next season unranked in the AP poll, and it hasn’t happened since 2003.

UF would be the first defending SEC East champion to miss the top 25. The AP poll comes out later this month.

While the Gators can’t control where they start the season, they’ll determine how they finish. To exceed expectations, several new faces in the starting lineup will need to set up.

Florida has to replace its starting quarterback, running back, tight end, team-leading wide receiver, kicker and six of 11 starters on defense.

“It will be interesting to see how this year’s team responds,” McElwain said. “We lost some really, really fine players, and I’m excited for them to move on into the National Football League.

“I think we learned a lot of lessons (from 2015). And yet, we’ve got a bunch of new guys. In fact, I think the happiest people on our campus are the people that are going to sell programs, because there’s a whole bunch of new jerseys out there. That will be a lot of fun for people to figure out who they are.”

Week 1 rankings of reigning SEC division winners:

*Conference champion in bold, AP ranking in parenthesis 

1993: Alabama (2), Florida (8)
1994: Florida (1), Alabama (11)
1995: Florida (5), Alabama (11)
1996: Florida (4), Arkansas (unranked)
1997: Florida (2), Alabama (16)
1998: Tennessee (10), Auburn (25)
1999: Tennessee (2), Mississippi State (unranked)
2000: Alabama (3), Florida (9)
2001: Florida (1), Auburn (unranked)
2002: Tennessee (2), LSU (14)
2003: Georgia (9), Arkansas (unranked)
2004: LSU (4), Georgia (3)
2005: Auburn (16), Tennessee (3)
2006: Georgia (15), LSU (8)
2007: Florida (6), Arkansas (20)
2008: LSU (7), Tennessee (18)
2009: Florida (1), Alabama (5)
2010: Alabama (1), Florida (4)
2011: Auburn (23), South Carolina (12)
2012: LSU (3), Georgia (6)
2013: Alabama (1), Georgia (5)
2014: Auburn (6), Missouri (24)
2015: Alabama (3), Missouri (24)