Thursday, December 11

The Forgotten Gator

Two years ago Chris Leak led the Florida Gators to their second national championship in the school's football history. According to the way many are talking this year about Tim Tebow, you would think that it was he who led the Gators to the victory over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. It is all part of the media onslaught of the Tim Tebow for Heisman campaign, which will no doubt culminate with his holiness accepting another bronze trophy this Saturday in New York. The CBS commentary during the SEC Championship reached new heights when he was labeled 'Bronko Nagurski Tebow'. I think you'll find a few subtle differences between the two if you look close enough and not just because I do not think Tebow has ever pointed directions to someplace by picking up a horse-led plow. Let's take a quick look back on the 2006 title the roles played by Leak and Tebow.

First off, this is not a dismissal of the talent and desire of Tim Tebow. He is an exceptional player and we all know what a saint he is off the field. It is not hard for the sports audience to grow weary of him however. The mass sports media constantly fawn over him and treat him as the second coming of some sort of college football diety. Here are a few examples:

Voters have spoken -- give Tebow the Heisman, again [CBSSportsline]

Tebow's emotional vow could go down in sports lore [CBSSportsline]

Is this really going to go down in sports lore? I guess since he does not play on the network that employs me or I do not have a man-crush on him I do not get how blubbering about how upset you are after a loss becomes on par with winning one for the Gipper.

Tebow clings to his reign [FoxSports]

Tebow seals Heisman Trophy with SEC title game performance [SportingNews]

Tim Tebow Continues to Be Haterade-Repellent [SportingNews]

These may be justified articles about a great player, but in the minds of those of the anti-Tebow crowd, they are more examples of the media's love affair with him. The post-game press conference after the Ole Miss game is what still gets me, everyone seems to think that the Florida win was a direct result of that speech, but in truth it was a switch in the offense which involved their tremendous playmakes like Percy Harvin that proved to be the Gators' winning formula. But again I digress, let's take a trip back to 2006 when the Gators won the national championship.

By the time Leak headed into his senior season in 2006, he was already operating under the third offensive scheme in his four years at Florida. This was the second year he had had under Urban Meyer's "spread option" which Meyer had tailored more towards Leak since he was more of a dropback passer. That year Tebow was a freshman and it was apparent early that Tebow was more fit to run Meyer's offense. Before and during the season though, Leak got Meyer's vote of confidence and remained the starter throughout the season though Tebow came in for certain series, especially down by the goal-line.

The Gators schedule that year was comprised completely around SEC juggernauts since the conference was especially strong that year. The team ran through a schedule that included Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, LSU, Auburn, and Georgia in consecutive weeks. [side note: funny how Texas does not get a lot of credit for running through their gauntlet of Oklahoma, Missouri, Oklahoma St., and Texas Tech] They were all strong teams and the only team they fell to was Auburn 27-17. That was Leak's worst game of the year as he went 9-17 with 1 TD, 1 INT and was sacked 3 times. The game at the time seemed to knock Florida out of the national championship picture but a USC 13-9 upset at the hands of UCLA allowed the Gators to sneak into the championship game after they defeated Arkansas in the SEC Championship. In the SEC title game Leak was 16-30 for 189 yards 1 TD and 2 INT and 1 rushing TD. It was not his best effort of the year but the Gators won 38-28 and in that game Leak became the all-time leader in passing yards at UF, eclipsing Danny Wuerffel's mark.

In total, Leak finished as the all-time leader at Florida in attempts, completions, yards, 200-yard passing games, and total yards by a QB. His final stats were 11,213 yards, 88 passing TDs versus 42 INTs, 13 Rushing TDs, and a 139.83 passer rating. In the championship game against Ohio State Leak was 25-36 for 213 yards, 1 TD and he was named offensive MVP for the game.

Tim Tebow had 7 rushing TDs in 2006 and 5 passing TDs along with an INT. He only threw 33 passes all year, racking up 358 yards. In the championship game Tebow threw one pass for a 1 yard TD, and had 39 yards rushing and a TD. Those were pretty good stats to accumulate for someone who was not playing that much, but I beleive it is clear that Leak was the offensive leader of that team.

Chris Leak was not without his share of off-field goodliness either. He was a finalist for the Draddy Trophy which is also known as the Academic Heisman. Every semester he made the SEC Academic Honor Roll and was a keynote speaker at the Florida graduation ceremony.

Leak went undrafted in 2007 but was signed as a free agent with the Chicago Bears. He did not get much playing time and was released after the final pre-season game. Many think it is his height which prevents him from even being able to make a NFL roster. He is listed at 5'11" which may be generous as most listings are. He tried out this year for the Chiefs but again did not make the roster. On June 9th of this year he signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL and for those of you keeping score at home, they lost the Grey Cup this year to Calgary. On the Montreal team page, there are no stats listed for Leak which I assume means he received no playing time this year.

Although Tebow will most likely win his second Heisman this weekend and in my estimation he lead the Gators to another national title, but the '06 campaign was with Leak leading the offense, a highly touted recruit who overcame the Zook era and three different offensive schemes in four years to led the rout of Ohio State in Glendale and who left Florida with a good number of passing records. I have heard numerous mentions of how Tim Tebow is trying to lead his team to the 2nd national championship under his immaculate reign leadership at UF, but how quick people forget someone who did not receive the constant fellating from the media. Tebow is great and maybe one of the best college football players we have seen in awhile as some are labeling him, but if he fails to win on January 8th, he will have two Heismans his only championship will be as a back-up freshman.

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