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50 For 50, No. 23: The Tim Tebow Thing Doesn't Matter To The Florida Gators

There are 12 days until Florida's football opener against Florida Atlantic on September 3. There are 23 entries remaining in our 50 For 50 series. You do the math. And check out Alligator Army's 50 For 50 series for more of our 50 reasons to be excited for Florida football in 2011.

Okay, so, uh, I realize I just told you why it's a good thing for this fall that Florida fans understand "the Tebow thing," but this matters, too: The Tim Tebow thing doesn't matter to the Florida Gators.

Remember the build-up to Tebow's senior year in 2009, when one of the major Gators storylines was "Will Tebow change his throwing motion to improve his NFL Draft prospect?" Remember the brief pundit point of contention about whether Urban Meyer did enough to prepare Tebow for the NFL? Remember how it looked like Tebow's failure to immediately make an impact on the NFL was going to be evidence for a powerful argument about Florida quarterbacks failing at the next level that could have damaged Gators recruiting?

Well, all of that got invalidated as soon as Charlie Weis came to town. Weis' name is about as golden as it gets when it comes to coaching quarterbacks; the Super Bowl rings and the tutelage of Tom Brady earned him that reputation, and teaching Brady Quinn (drafted earlier than Tebow, remember) and Matt Cassel (a Pro Bowler under Weis in Kansas City) only burnish it.

Tebow failing may hurt Gator Nation, admittedly. But Gator Nation and the Gators are different things: Tebow can never start another game in the NFL and it won't change the fortunes of the guys who suit up in orange and blue more than marginally.

And Tebow's influence on Florida is waning. The teammates Tebow played with are now juniors and seniors; they'll be gone from Gainesville before long. Will Muschamp has virtually no connection to Tebow. John Brantley doesn't really count as Tebow's protege. Jeff Driskel has Tebow parallels, not Tebow ties. It won't be long before nearly every Gator player and coach knows Tebow primarily through memories and stories.

Mickey Marotti is probably still telling Tebow stories, though, so there's no chance anyone's going to forget what Tebow did for Florida. And in truth, Tebow's shadow is long enough that it will never not rest on parts of the Florida football program, and his legacy is strong enough to stay in Florida fans' memories until death. But the marks Tebow left on Florida, psychic and physical (hi, plaque of The Promise!) aren't going to disappear when Tebow struggles to complete passes or rides the pine.

And that's why you don't need to worry about Tebow's NFL career, unless you want to: For the Gators, Tebow's successes or failures beyond Florida don't really matter to the team that will always be playing in The Swamp. He's already left every mark he needed to leave.