The Miami Dolphins are scheduled to host the Denver Broncos on Sunday as Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow makes his first start of the 2011 season. Tebow, played high school football for Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach here in Florida, as well as attended the University of Florida. He won the 2007 Heisman Trophy wile a member of the Gators.
Besides having grown up in the state, Tebow has a history in Sun Life Stadium. He won the 2005 Class 4A high school state championship in the stadium. During the game, Tebow passed for 237 yards and four touchdowns, rushed for 153 yards and two more TDs, and finished the game playing defensive tackle, when his coach asked him to go in with the game on the line.
But, more importantly for this week's game against the Dolphins, Tebow was a member of the 2008-2009 Florida Gators National Championship team, which won their title in Sun Life Stadium. Tebow led the Gators to a 24-14 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners, and was named the game's Most Valuable Player.
This Sunday's game marks a confusing time for many Dolphins fans. Miami is currently winless on the season, having lost all five games in 2011, as well as their last three games of 2010. But, even as the fans try to root Miami to their first victory, many Dolphins fans also root for the University of Florida, and have a special place for the memories that Tebow provided during his time there.
These fans want to see Miami win, but Tebow perform well.
Then there's the other side of the Tebow Mania. Many Dolphins fans are also fans of the University of Miami or Florida State, and, therefore, dislike the polarizing Tebow. Now, they have to watch him lead the 1-4 Broncos into Miami, and possibly defeat their team, again.
And, to make matters worse, Miami has Sunday's halftime celebration slatted to honor the Gators' National Championship team, highlighted by Dolphins rookie center Mike Pouncey, and Tebow. A celebration scheduled before Tebow took the helm of the Broncos' offense, the akwardness of honoring the opponent's starting quarterback hasn't gone unnoticed by fans,.
And, to make matters worse, the idea of honoring the Florida Gators on the same field where the Miami Hurricanes play home games doesn't sit well with fans of "The U." The Dolphins had invited the Hurricanes to have a celebration of their 2001 National Championship, but the team declined the invitation, stating they would honor the 10 year anniversary of that championship, themselves.
Mike Dee, Miami Dolphins CEO, has stressed that the halftime celebration is not about Tebow. "This has never been Tim Tebow Day," Dee said. "It has always been about a celebration of the 2008 Gators team. There will be more than 20 players from that team represented."
Meanwhile, the Dolphins announced on Thursday that their sell out streak will reach 104 straight games this week, thanks to team sponsor Bud Light purchasing all remaining tickets, despite a large jump in ticket sales with the news that Tebow was the new starter in Denver. Within a week of Tebow being named to the position, ticket sales in Miami jumped nearly 20,000.
Tebow is still an extremely raw, non-typical NFL quarterback. His long, looping release scares coaches and analysts alike, and many feel he takes too many hits as he scrambles for yardage. But, he has reached near-rock start status among fans, with his jersey being the most highly purchased one in the NFL.
And, for one day only, Tebow will be in Sun Life Stadium, a place that has seen some of the greatest moments in his football career. The game, despite being a contest matching up a 0-5 team against a 1-4 visitor, has become one of the most anticipated on the NFL slate for this weekend - with more media coverage of this game than most of the others. Reports put 80 media members at the Broncos' practices throughot the week.
Now, hopefully, the Dolphins can steal the headlines from Tebow.