GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Almost every Florida Gators game, there’s at least one television frame of coach Urban Meyer and quarterback Tim Tebow sharing a hug, a joke, a strategic conversation.
It’s overplayed television drama to the fullest.
It’s also genuine, Tebow and Meyer say, though the relationship isn’t without its discord.
Meyer and Tebow — who will run out of the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium tunnel for the last time together on Saturday against Florida State (6-5) — have bonded over a tough recruiting battle with Alabama four years ago, a disappointing 9-4 record in 2007 and the joy of a potential third national title.
That’s just half of their relationship because of Tebow’s national popularity and the endless requests for his attention. Meyer, who has been involved in almost every step of Tebow’s four-year Gators career, said the two have “lots of (disagreements)” that he’s not willing to share publicly.
They certainly fight over fourth-down calls. When Meyer wants to punt, Tebow wants to go for it.
“He’s kind of cooled out on (the fourth downs),” Meyer said. “When he was a freshman and the whole screaming and yelling and going all out — we’re good, Tim.”
Their relationship strengthened beginning in December 2005 when Tebow didn’t let Meyer know he was committing to Florida (11-0) over Alabama until announcing on national television. Tebow tried to call Meyer’s cell before the announcement but lost a signal.
The two have won 46 games together, and if they have their way, three more wins will translate into a second straight national title and the school’s first unblemished season.
Tebow said he and Meyer would have a “father-son relationship” even if Florida hadn’t won a national-high 21 straight games. He points to hanging out in Meyer’s office during the day or meeting him for lunch in Jacksonville on a bye week while Meyer is recruiting.
The occasional disagreement is more about being comfortable with each other than any deep-rooted problems, Tebow said.
“We talk about life and family and all our charity stuff and football,” Tebow said. “So much of our relationship is outside of football. It’s outside of this. Outside of y’all. It’s just about life and everything outside of that, our life past college. We’ll be really close for a long time.”
After more than 20 years in the coaching game, Meyer has seen fame change players who surround themselves with those with “self-destructive motives.”
Tebow never succumbed to that pressure because of his Christian family, Meyer said.
“You see that all the time with some great athletes. It just rips your heart apart,” Meyer said. “They let other people in their lives. Tim, the same people that when he was the 18-year-old being recruited by Florida, the same people were the important people in his life. Because of that, he’s still Tim Tebow, even stronger than he was coming out.”
After spending countless hours with former offensive coordinator Dan Mullen — who left for Mississippi State last December — Tebow leaned on Meyer to fill the void. Meyer said Tebow felt the sting of Mullen’s absence for a short time, but the hiring of quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler helped ease the transition.
After four years, Tebow and Meyer do have one unresolved conflict that can’t be decided until after the season.
“We’ll joke with each other about playing golf after this season and who’s going to win,” Tebow said.