This practice really makes Tebow perfect

HOOVER , Ala. – The biggest star in college football had been asked every other question so why not try a new one? Tim Tebow had taken on a Mr. Perfect reputation: Heisman winner, BCS champion, unfailingly polite Born Again Christian in a Florida quarterback’s uniform.

The gushing from the media through the years – the latest being a Sports Illustrated cover appearance this week – is well-earned. It’s also overbearing to rival fans who are tired of hearing about the guy.

What can anyone say though? What’s his negative – that he’s too earnest? He’s too polite? Does Tim Tebow do anything wrong? So on Thursday at SEC media day, someone tried to find out.

“Tim, are you saving yourself for marriage?” asked Clay Travis, the author of “On Rocky Top,” in wondering whether the answer would mesh with Tebow’s public passion for his faith.

Tebow laughed. Everyone in the interview room laughed. Wait, Tim Tebow’s sex life is now an issue? A question jammed in between his thoughts on UF’s running back rotation and the pressures of being ranked No. 1 in the preseason?

But when the noise died down, Tebow spoke.

“Yes,” he said. “I am.”

There were more giggles. This is what it had come to for a player who has hit the star stratosphere like few college players ever.

“I think you’re all stunned right now,” Tebow smiled. “I was ready for the question. Ya’ll weren’t.”

So there you go, Tim Tebow is a virgin and he’s proud to admit it. Apparently people ask all the time.

He was fine with the question and wants to let everyone know that not even the coeds in Gainesville could break him of his commitment to Christianity. And if you’ve ever strolled through the UF campus, you’d know Tebow has just redefined the word “devout.”

Forget preaching to prisoners, circumcising children on third world missionaries or giving impassioned speeches after losses to Ole Miss. The legend of Tim Tebow may have just peaked. At this point, just about anything this guy does would seem believable.

“The No. 1 way you minister to people is through your actions,” Tebow said. “They see how you act, how you treat people, how you love people, how strong your relationship with Jesus Christ is.”

So there you go; one more thing to like about the guy, one more thing for rival fans to taunt him with, if they so chose. Not that he’d care. Tebow looked proud, admitting the ultimate walking of the walk. That’s his thing. After he wore a Bible verse under his eyes at the BCS title game last January, it was searched for 94 million times on the Internet.

“The impact you can have is incredible,” he said in explaining why he returned for his senior season.

As big as SEC media days have been, with a thousand media members conducting countless interviews stretched over three days, there is no doubt who the biggest story was – No. 15 for the Gators.

The Tebow phenomenon is completely over the top. There’s nothing like it in the college game, where the coaches usually suck up most of the attention as players rotate in and out.

Not Tebow. The SEC media relations people had to sneak him into the hotel to avoid crushing crowds. The media throng around him as he strolled into a ballroom featured 18 cameras. It was something out of a Hollywood premiere or a perp walk, cameras constantly flashing and people trying not to be trampled.

His coach, Urban Meyer, was asked if Tebow had any annoying or bad habits.

“That’s a great question,” Meyer said. “I’m sure I can think of some.”

He paused. And paused. And thought. Then finally Meyer spoke.

“There are some, but I can’t share them with you right now because I can’t recall what they are.”

When word came out last week that Tebow wasn’t a unanimous selection as first-team All-SEC, reporters launched investigations into which opposing coach dared to pick someone else. So far seven of 11 have been questioned here and all said they picked Tebow. Tennessee’s Lane Kiffin said in an interview last week that he also chose Tebow.

Assuming everyone is telling the truth (and knowing football coaches there is absolutely no reason to assume that, but it’s all we have at this point) that leaves LSU’s Les Miles, Auburn’s Gene Chizik or South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier as the culprit.

Tebowgate became such a big issue, some of the coaches got sick of hearing about it.

“I voted for Tim Tebow,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “But I also think everybody should have the right to vote for whoever they want, and I don’t think they should be criticized for that. It’s what a lot of people have fought for in this country for a long time.”

Saban may have been joking a bit at the end – he isn’t what you’d call comedic, yet he sometimes makes jokes anyway. Either way, what Saban said, by comparing a coaches’ vote to some Americans’ struggles for suffrage is either the most patriotic thing ever spoken or a bit of anti-Tebow treason.

The debate over the interpretation may result in violence in the streets – or at least until Tebow tells everyone to settle down.

“It really doesn’t matter too much,” Tebow shrugged. “No, I don’t know who didn’t vote for me, but it’s not a big deal.”

Tebow just smiles at it all. The anti-Tebow crowd he brushes off. The backlash from all the positive media coverage and all his clean-cut acts, he spins around.

“It’s not just a lot of backlash, it’s also positive,” he said. “It’s affected a lot of people. They’re encouraged not to have an abortion because they heard the story of my mom [who refused doctor’s orders to terminate the pregnancy due to illness].

“Or be encouraged by the stories I’ve tried to tell or the way I live my life. It’s the opportunity to help comfort parents of a child that aren’t sure is going to make it. Or [helping] prisoners that no one cares about.

“That’s more important than football to me. If there’s a backlash, oh well, I’ll deal with it.”

Did you expect college football’s Mr. Perfect to have anything less than the perfect comeback?

Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports' national columnist. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October. Follow him on Twitter. Send Dan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Thursday, Jul 23, 2009