Nine years ago today, I was a 24-year old graduate student at the University of Florida with season tickets for football games. I had just returned from my second stint of living in Rome and studying the ancient archaeology and architecture of the city and Italian peninsula. I had just finished my master’s degree after writing a weird thesis on cannibalism and violence. Heady times, to be sure.
Nine years ago today, Tim Tebow was slogging his way through his third football season at Florida — his second as the team’s starting quarterback — and he and his Gators entered Week 4 ranked No. 4 in the land. That would not be the case by end of business on that fateful Saturday.
Because nine years ago today, Houston Nutt was coaching the Ole Miss Rebels, a squirrelly, strange club quarterbacked by Jevan Snead, who threw for 185 yards on 8-of-20 passing and two TD tosses. That sounds about right. Tebow, on the other hand, threw for 24-of-38 passes, amassing 319 yards and a throwing touchdown in a losing effort.
Oh, yeah, did we mention that Florida lost? We should have mentioned that Florida lost this one, 31-30, IN THE FINAL TWO MINUTES. On a missed Florida extra point. Here it is, if you care to relive the madness.
Never forget too that Ole Miss blocked an extra point in this game, which SEEMS KIND OF IMPORTANT IN RETROSPECT, JIM.
Following the game, Tim Tebow gave a bleary-eyed, watery diatribe about effort and hard work and “you’ll never see a team play as hard as we will this season.”
9 years ago today...— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 28, 2017
The Promise was made. The rest is history. pic.twitter.com/Hl65cepYOk
Here’s the full transcript of that speech, which actually reads much shorter than it feels.
To the fans and everybody in Gator Nation, I’m sorry. I’m extremely sorry. We were hoping for an undefeated season. That was my goal, something Florida has never done here.
I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season.
You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season.
Florida went on to win out that season on their way to a national championship, their second in three years. But Houston Nutt’s triumph in Gainesville spurred one of the most memorable and emotional moments in Gator history, which itself led to the program’s title that year. And because of that fact, the stadium now bears that plaque up there at the top of this post. I’ve seen it. I was at the unveiling ceremony. It’s absolutely there and real.
And it’s all because Houston Nutt ruined Tebow’s day in late September 2008.