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January 1, 2014

Tim Tebow: Not done with NFL despite ESPN job

Columbia, S.C. — Tim Tebow will continue chasing his goal to be a NFL quarterback, even after signing on to help ESPN launch the SEC Network this fall.

The former Florida Gator said Tuesday he trains five days a week for a return to the league.

“I feel like I’m the best that I’ve ever been as a quarterback right now. I hope I get the opportunity to show that,” he said. “But I’m also looking forward to being part of ‘SEC Nation’ and part of ESPN.”

The 26-year-old Heisman Trophy winner signed on Monday to be on the SEC Network’s pregame show starting in August. He’ll be part of the crew that will travel to Southeastern Conference schools in advance of SEC games on the fledgling network.

Tebow’s first “SEC Nation” show will be on Aug. 28 before Texas A&M opens the season at South Carolina, a game that will be shown exclusively on the SEC Network. Tebow and the show then head to Auburn on Aug. 30 where the Tigers will take on Arkansas.

That is, of course, if Tebow doesn’t get a call from the NFL that has him tied up that weekend.

“I’m not sure what’s ahead of me,” Tebow said. “I’m very excited to have this opportunity at ESPN, but who knows what the next few months will hold.”

Tebow has bounced around the NFL since leaving Florida as part of two national champions.

He was a first-round selection by Denver and then head coach Josh McDaniels in 2010. He took over as starting quarterback mid-season in 2011 became one of the NFL’s biggest stories as he went 7-1 in his first eight starts in 2011 then threw an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime to give the Broncos a 29-23 playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But there were still doubts about his passing ability, and Denver traded him that offseason to the New York Jets after acquiring Peyton Manning.

He languished on the bench while coach Rex Ryan ignored fans’ calls for Tebow to replace a struggling Mark Sanchez. Tebow threw just eight passes, ran only 32 times and was cut last April 29.

For six weeks no team wanted him until the Patriots signed him to a low-risk, two-year contract with no guaranteed money.

“I don’t have any regrets” about the NFL, Tebow said. “I’ve just tried to focus on being a better quarterback, being a better athlete and being ready whenever a team gave me a call.”

Tebow said he’s spoken with several friends who are analysts, including his former coach at Florida in Urban Meyer, who worked for ESPN between his time with the Gators and his current position as Ohio State head coach.

Justin Connolly, ESPN senior vice president for college networks programming, said Tebow was important enough to ESPN that the network accepted he might not be finished with the NFL.

“In terms of specific situations, I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and comment on any particular eventuality or scenario that you could put together,” Connolly said. “But that’s a key piece of this relationship and we’re going to honor that and respect it.”

Connolly was asked on Tuesday’s conference call if Tebow’s faith — he’s a noted speaker who’s gained followers and critics for sharing his religious beliefs — might enter into his analysis. Connolly stressed Tebow was hired for his inside knowledge of football and the SEC.

“That’s what the audience expects from him,” Connolly said.

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