Football

Florida QB says he's comfortable on the road

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Go ahead and yell at Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. Throw things. Scream obscenities. Make imaginative signs. Wear something outrageous. Call his cell phone. Even ask for his autograph.

It's all been done before, and none of it bothers Florida's star quarterback on the road.

In fact, he thrives off it.

"I love playing at The Swamp. It's unbelievable. Don't get me wrong," Tebow said. "But sometimes it's better playing on the road. Because when you are playing at Neyland Stadium or LSU or those stadiums, that gets your blood going. It gets you excited and ready to play.

"For me, I don't know why, but it's exciting and I enjoy it."

Tebow's first road game of the season comes Saturday when the fourth-ranked Gators (2-0) play at Tennessee (1-1), giving the 6-foot-3, 240-pound junior a chance to add to his accomplishments outside Gainesville.

Maybe his most significant play — certainly his first memorable one in college — came at Neyland Stadium two years ago. Tebow was sent into the huddle on fourth-and-1 from the Tennessee 28 midway through the fourth quarter and with the Gators trailing 20-14.

Tebow was a freshman playing on the road for the first time. He was surrounded by more than 106,000 raucous fans. He was going against a stingy defense.

He never flinched.

"I just remember he had to get it," teammate Percy Harvin said. "Coach came to him on the sidelines. Tebow kept telling him to give him the ball. Coach said, 'If I put you in, you better get this.' And Tebow looked at him with a crazy look and went in there and got it."

Tebow gained 2 yards on the run, Florida scored two plays later and then held on for a 21-20 victory that helped propel the Gators to the Southeastern Conference championship and their second national title.

"It was my first opportunity to make a play. That's why I think it is so special to me and Coach and everything like that," Tebow said. "It was a play we had to make, and as a freshman in my third game, they gave me the opportunity to make it."

Tebow was even better on the road last season, overcoming all the potential distractions that come with playing in front of rowdy SEC fans who tend to create more-than-hostile environments for opponents.

He ran for 166 yards and two touchdowns at Mississippi and threw for 261 yards and two more scores. He had four touchdown passes at Kentucky and added 78 yards and a score on the ground. He accounted for seven touchdowns at South Carolina and finished with 304 yards passing and 120 yards rushing.

Even in Florida's lone road loss, a 28-24 setback at LSU, Tebow was involved in all three of the team's touchdowns.

In the four road games, Tebow completed 61 percent of his passes for 979 yards, with 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He also ran 89 times for 431 yards and nine scores and didn't fumble.

All of his success came with fans and opponents trying to rattle him.

He's heard foul language, insults and taunting. He's been on the receiving end of a few cheap shots and late hits. He's checked out the creative signs and costumes in the stands. He's even been asked for an autograph by an Ole Miss fan.

"It was like, 'Who are you rooting for?'" Tebow said.

He also had to deal with hundreds of threatening messages before the LSU game when someone distributed his cell phone number on the Internet. Tebow responded by pretending to dial a phone after his first touchdown pass against the Tigers.

"I don't know how he deals with it," tight end Aaron Hernandez said. "I don't think he lets that stuff bother him and get in his head."

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