FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — It was December 2005 and Tim Tebow was a high school senior taking his official visit at USC. Home schooled, Tebow still was able to showcase his ability for Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and became one of the best quarterback recruits in the nation. Offers poured in from the nation's top programs and the young Tebow took official visits to the Trojans along with Alabama, LSU, Michigan and Florida, his eventual choice.
But on that trip to Los Angeles, the player charged with giving Tebow a feel for the campus that weekend was none other than Mark Sanchez. And now it will be one of these two quarterbacks under the center for the New York Jets this season as a trade last week reunited Sanchez and Tebow.
"I did host him at USC," Sanchez said in a Monday afternoon conference call with the New York media. "He's still the same guy."
Now entering his fourth year with the Jets, Sanchez remembers laughing and joking around with Tebow on the official visit. They lost contact after their initial meeting although both players admit to admiring the other one's collegiate career. But a couple years ago, they connected again at a Super Bowl fan event and then later at a Q&A forum with fans.
Tebow gushed over Sanchez in his press conference, Sanchez did the same during his conference call, and the odd couple of the NFL is set to begin a strange odyssey.
A pocket passer, Sanchez is known for his strong arm and is a typical pro-style quarterback. On the other hand, Tebow runs out of the option and rarely completes over 50 percent of his passes. Sanchez loves going out on the town and has been romantically linked to everyone from Jamie-Lynn Sigler to model Kate Upton. An evangelical Christian, Tebow said he is saving his virginity for marriage.
Despite the differences, it was Sanchez who reached out with a phone call to Tebow, again being the gracious host after the trade. This time, though, he was welcoming Tebow to his team and not trying to recruit him. Their styles on the field and lifestyles might be different, but both talk nonstop about wanting to win.
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"I just called him like I do with a lot of the offensive free agents or anyone we sign. Just welcomed him to the team and obviously gave him my number, let him know if he needed anything — left him a voicemail and he called me right back," Sanchez said.
"We've known each other for a few years now and I watched him from afar, he's a great competitor."
But now, the Jets are left in a sticky situation. Sanchez was given a three-year contract extension several weeks ago, making him the unquestioned starter at that time. Enter Tebow, who started 11 regular-season games and two playoff games in the Denver Broncos' 2011 campaign, and suddenly there's talk of a quarterback controversy just weeks before OTAs and mini-camp.
Sanchez offered advice in his phone call on how to handle the introductory press conference, and Tebow is promising a good working relationship, even as he comes to New York as the Jets' No. 2 quarterback.
"We have a great relationship; he just said it would be fun working together," Tebow said.
"You spend so much time watching film in the QB room, it's so important to have people in there you like, that you can get along with, that you can joke around with, that you can make fun of, that you can have a great time [with]. Just as far as that goes, we'll have a great relationship."
Whether it works as well on the field, however, remains to be seen.
Follow Kristian R. Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer