But once the clock runs out on Tebow’s career with the Gators, he will transfer from a football world where he has an unimpeachable legacy to one where his future is full of uncertainty. Although Tebow has put up cartoonish statistics and established off-the-charts intangibles in college, experts say that his professional future is blurry. Some predict there is no way Tebow will slip out of the first round of the N.F.L. draft. Others say he might have to consider a position change.
As the drumbeat builds toward April’s draft, Tebow will be a divisive and hotly debated prospect.
Tebow has heard the critics. He chuckles at the notion of playing tight end or fullback and says he is ready to prove them wrong.
“I’ve heard it since high school,” he said. “People didn’t think that I could throw at Florida. We did O.K. at that. Going to the next level, we’re going to try and prove people wrong. It’s going to be fun. I just want an opportunity to be a quarterback at the next level and to get that chance.”
The opinions on Tebow are diverse. For everyone who sees Tebow as a franchise quarterback, there are just as many who project him as an H-back.
“He scares me,” said Brian Billick, the former Baltimore Ravens coach who will be part of the broadcasting crew for the Sugar Bowl. “You love the kid. If there is a fair God above, he’ll have a successful N.F.L. career.”
Billick said he spoke with five N.F.L. personnel officials and none of them had Tebow graded in the first round. Billick called Tebow’s throwing motion “scary,” noting that his delivery started near his knees. He said that he liked a comment made by Lou Holtz, the former Notre Dame coach, that Tebow would have been the first linebacker taken in the draft last year.
“I don’t know how you take a kid in the first round, who you are going to have to change absolutely everything he does, his drop, his delivery,” Billick said. He added: “I didn’t talk to anybody who had him in the first round. Maybe late you take a flier on him.”
That opinion is at odds with the view of former players like Jim Kelly and Bob Griese, Hall of Fame quarterbacks who have predicted success for Tebow. Patriots Coach Bill Belichick called Tebow a “special one” in Sports Illustrated last year and told the magazine it would be “very interesting” to see how he was used in the N.F.L., because few quarterbacks could both run and throw.
Florida Coach Urban Meyer echoed those thoughts Thursday, saying he was “very concerned” that the team drafting Tebow would not adapt to his skills.
“I hope he goes to the right place,” Meyer said. “I get very concerned about that. There’s no doubt in my mind that he can play quarterback in the N.F.L.”
In an interview last summer, Meyer said that he thought a spread offense like the one he had used successfully in college would have worked years ago in the N.F.L.
“Everyone runs the same offense in the N.F.L.,” Meyer said. “A lot of those coaches are retreads. They get fired in Minnesota, they go to St. Louis. They get fired in St. Louis and go to San Diego. I guess what gets lost in the shuffle is your objective is to go win the game. If it’s going to help you win the game, then you should run the spread.”
An N.F.L. director of player personnel, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak about the draft, said Tebow’s unusual skills had led to diverging opinions.
“The biggest obstacle is that there’s no mold you can look to and say, ‘This guys reminds me of X, Y, Z player,’ ” he said. “And you’re going to have to build your offense around him. The biggest question that I have is that so much of his success was based on his run skills and competitiveness. In the N.F.L., that won’t work.”
The personnel director said he could not see Tebow being drafted in the first round. But Tebow’s character, football savvy and work ethic could create a situation where a coach would try to build a team around him.
“He’s not like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger who will stand in the pocket and drive the football down the field,” the personnel director said. “He’s not that kind of guy. He doesn’t have the pure passing skills, accuracy, or throw the ball well enough vertically. His mechanics are flawed and his throwing motion is awkward.”
Florida’s strength coach, Mickey Marotti, has trained dozens of players for the draft and said that Tebow would test well and impress people around the N.F.L. with his strength and intangibles.
“He has the ‘it’ factor and he’s a winner,” Marotti said.
Tebow said he would spend the days after the Sugar Bowl deciding on an agent, where to train and whether to play in the Senior Bowl.
“I always enjoy challenges,” he said, “and that next step is going to be a lot of fun to for me.”