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Tim Tebow Lied to Hide a Concussion Headache Before the 2009 LSU Game


Remember the 2009 season, and specifically the concussion Tim Tebow sustained during the Kentucky game that led to a fortnight of furious speculation about his availability for the showdown in Baton Rouge against LSU? Well, it turns out that Tebow wasn't exactly symptom-free before that game: Only Gators excerpts a bit of Tebow's autobiography, Through My Eyes, in which the Heisman Trophy-winner reveals that he not only had a headache on the day of the game, but notes that Urban Meyer told him he couldn't play.

After a number of tests, the doctors cleared me to play the morning of the game, but (Meyer) took me aside before we got on the bus to Tiger Stadium.

"I’m not going to let you play," he said. He had tears in his eyes—he knew how much it meant to me.

"I have to play," I responded.

He cut me off. "I keep asking myself, if you were Nate, would I let you play? I keep saying, ‘No.’ I can’t let you play." He really wanted to win, but he was unwilling to take a chance with my health.

"But they cleared me, and I haven’t had headaches in days," I countered. "There’s no reason for me not to play."

"No headaches?"

"No, Coach. No headaches." A headache had been starting to set in, but for all I know, it was from stress or a migraine, not the concussion.

I was praying in the locker room that the headache, which had been getting worse and worse, would simply go away. It didn’t. I could barely see by the end of the pregame warm-ups, it was hurting so badly.

This is seriously disappointing.

In the wake of Tebow's concussion against Kentucky, I wrote a piece for Sporting News' The Sporting Blog about how much Tebow meant to the Gators and college football that fall. But I neglected to mention how important it should have been for Tebow to be handled with care, and held out, and neglected to note how serious a concussion truly is.

In this case, it seems clear that Florida's medical staff did their job, running the battery of post-concussion tests and concluding that Tebow was suffering no post-concussion symptoms. And Meyer tried to do his, assessing his player's health and judging him too injured to play. But Tebow, a competitor to his own detriment, wouldn't have that, and lied to get his way, endangering himself and putting both his team's fortunes and an entire program's reputation at risk. Even if that headache wasn't actually concussion-related, he lied to his coach's face about it, and played just two weeks after a concussion with a blinding headache; that, frankly, is incredibly stupid, if noble in the way that any football player abnegating the duty to protect himself in pursuit of glory is.

He got lucky.

He got lucky that no LSU defenders compounded his concussion that night; he and Florida got lucky that he waited almost two years to drop this bombshell, and lucky that no journalist pressed (or could press) for more details about his pregame condition. And anyone who saw their good work and best intentions squandered by Tebow making a typically headstrong decision should be rightly disappointed that this will be spun as a part of Tebow's warrior ethos rather than a stupid decision made by someone who shouldn't have been making that decision in the first place. (Meyer, for letting Tebow overrule him, deserves some blame, too.)

Want a flaw in the Tebow mystique? This is it: Tebow recklessly using his stature and guile to get his way off the field — where stature and guile being used like that is an abuse of privilege — and force his way onto it. And I would hope that Tebow is asked to address this in the near future.