By Mike Bires
Beaver County Times
January 5, 2011
PITTSBURGH -- Marcus Gilbert was part of the famous Florida Gators' recruiting class in 2006, and vividly remembers the day he met the new hot-shot quarterback.
"The first time I ever met him, I said, ‘Man, this guy is special.' He has something in him. There's something about him," said Gilbert, the Steelers' rookie right tackle.
Gilbert, of course, was talking about Tim Tebow.
Gilbert and center Maurkice Pouncey, another ex-Gator, will have a reunion of sorts Sunday with Tebow. The Steelers will be in Denver for a wild-card game. And it's Tebow, who's still one of the most compelling athletes in sports, who helped get the Broncos to the playoffs.
Love him or hate him, Tebow is the man most responsible for the Broncos winning the AFC West.
The 25th overall pick of the 2010 draft, he's a rare breed among NFL quarterbacks. He's a strong, muscular young man of 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds who's more of a runner than a thrower. But above all, he's a winner.
In high school, he was a two-time player of the year who led his team to the Florida 4A championship as a senior.
As the starting QB at Florida, he led the Gators to records of 9-4, 13-1 and 13-1 and a national championship.
Before becoming the starter in Denver, the Broncos were 1-4. Since Tebow took over, the Broncos are 7-4.
Pouncey, who was Tebow's center for two years at Florida including the 2008 season when the Gators won the national title, isn't surprised by "Tebowmania." But at times Wednesday, he really didn't seem interested in talking about Tebow.
"How come nobody asked me about Brandon Spikes when we played the Patriots?" he said. "I'm tired of answering all these questions about Tim Tebow."
Spikes, who was also part of the highly acclaimed Florida recruiting class of '06, plays linebacker for New England.
Pouncey, the 18th overall pick of the 2010 draft, went as far as saying that the Broncos' defense "is the only reason they are winning."
However, Pouncey also said that Tebow "is a good dude" and that "it was a great experience playing with him."
When asked if he had a favorite Tebow story from their days at Florida, Pouncey said, "We went to the national championship game. He played good. We won at the end and he was the MVP of the game."
"I have never doubted Tim Tebow," Gilbert said.
Gilbert and Pouncey both laughed when asked about Tebow's exploits in the Gator weight room.
"They actually had to calm him down at times," Pouncey said. "He was trying to do things in the weight room quarterbacks shouldn't do. He'd go in there and try to bench press all this weight and do stuff quarterbacks shouldn't do, and he's the guy who was to throw the ball on Saturdays."
"Yeah, he was an animal in the weight room," added Gilbert. "He was a big guy with a lot of energy in all aspects of football, whether it was in the weight room, in the meeting room or on the football field. He was so passionate about the game.
"That's what you want from your leader. He was the kind of guy you want on your team. Just being around him drove me to become a better player."
As far as Tebow's public displays of his religious beliefs, neither Pouncey nor Gilbert have a problem with it.
"He's always been that way," Pouncey said. "It wasn't an issue with us (at Florida) and I don't see why it's an issue now. I say it's a good thing that he has religion."