GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Tim Tebow's short walk from Florida's practice field to the locker room takes longer than any of his teammates or coaches.
He stops for autographs, poses for pictures and chats with anyone wanting to say hello.
It's Tebow's team now - and everyone knows it.
The sophomore quarterback gets hounded everywhere he goes in Gainesville, receiving as much - maybe even more - attention as coach Urban Meyer.
"Just like everything else, there's pros and cons with it," Tebow says. "There's some times you'd rather go to a restaurant and hang out with your family or something. But other times, you get to meet cool people.
"You have to take the good with the bad, just like anything," he adds.
Tebow is sure to have all eyes on him again today when the national champion Gators hold their annual Orange and Blue spring game at Florida Field.
The spotlight is nothing new for Tebow - he was one of the country's most sought-after high school recruits in 2005 and had a documentary filmed about him called the "The Chosen One" - but it has become increasingly intense since Meyer dubbed the team his following the title game in January.
"That's your dream growing up: to get a chance to play for the Gators and be the starting quarterback," Tebow says.
The job also comes with added obligations: countless media requests, nonstop fan mail and endless appeals for his time.
Tebow handles it well. In fact, he never says no.
"I don't think I'll ever be like that and I don't ever want to be like that," he says. "I want to treat others like I would want to be treated."
Tebow takes his cue from former Florida quarterback and 1996 Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel.
Tebow remembers getting Wuerffel's autograph three times as a youngster. The current Gator QB still has the items Wuerffel signed - two church programs and a hat - back home in Jacksonville.
"If someone looks up to me and I say no, then I just think about how I would feel if he treated me like that," Tebow says of Wuerffel. "He was great about it.
"It's kind of how you want to make people feel. It makes me feel good to make other people feel good."
Tebow made Florida fans feel really good last season.
Sharing time with four-year starter Chris Leak, Tebow played mostly in short-yardage and goal-line situations. He showed little regard for his 6-foot-3, 234-pound body, running into the line of scrimmage, taking on defenders head on and picking up crucial first downs in key situations.
One such situation was against rival Tennessee.
With the Gators trailing 20-14 in the fourth quarter, Leak slid short of the first-down marker on third down. Meyer sent Tebow into the game - his third of the season and first in the Southeastern Conference - to execute a fourth-and-1 play. Tebow gained 2 yards, and the Gators went ahead for good two plays later.
There was also LSU.
Tebow ran for a score early. And when the Tigers stacked the line to stuff him, Tebow faked two runs, pulled up and threw two touchdown passes.
And then there was the national championship game against Ohio State.
Tebow threw a touchdown pass in the second quarter and ran for the final score in the 41-14 drubbing of the Buckeyes.
He finished the season 22-of-33 passing for 358 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. Tebow ran 89 times for 469 yards and eight scores.
More importantly, he gained the respect of his teammates and coaches - and the admiration of fans.
"He's done a great job," Meyer says. "He's the hardest worker I've ever been around."
Tebow wants to play every down this season, but he also understands Meyer's desire to use two quarterbacks. Freshman Cameron Newton and junior college transfer Bryan Waggener joined Tebow for spring practice. And highly touted freshman John Brantley will be in the mix this fall.
Nonetheless - like Meyer said in January - Florida is Tebow's team.
"Competition is always good," Tebow says. "It always makes you better.
"And for us to be a good team, we have to have more than just one quarterback because no matter what happens ... you play 12, 13, 14 games, that's a lot of hits you take. You have to have other guys ready. A team is only as good as its backup quarterback."
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