Gainesville, Florida — Tim Tebow in Playboy? Not happening.
The Florida quarterback became the first sophomore to ever win the Heisman last December, so it's only natural that he would be everybody's preseason All-America quarterback. Right?
But when Playboy asked for nominations for its annual All-America team back in the spring, Florida assistant sports information director Zack Higbee elected not to even put Tebow's name on the list.
Tebow, who will attend photo shoots today for magazine covers in Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News before attending the SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., on Wednesday, is vocal about his deep religious convictions. His father, Bob, is a missionary. Tebow feels it could also be his calling in life, after his football career is over.
Gary Cole, senior vice president and photographer director of Playboy, e-mailed and talked with Higbee on the phone about the decision not to nominate the Gator star.
"I spoke with Gary Cole and we're on the same page," Higbee said.
Cole said some athletes turn down the invitation to attend the Playboy function in Phoenix honoring the team, and a photo shoot, because they don't know all the facts.
"I don't hate it when someone has all the facts, understands what our weekend and our history is and then chooses not to attend,'' Cole told Florida Today.
"I do hate it when someone bases their choice on false or incomplete information. . . . The weekend (in Phoenix) is completely wholesome. I have always brought my children whether they were one or 16 years old. It's a really special few days when these fellows get the opportunity to meet each other and spend a little time together. Friendships are formed at these weekends that last a lifetime.''
Florida's Danny Wuerffel, also raised in a deeply-religious family, elected not to have his name on Playboy's preseason list in 1996, the year he also won the Heisman.
"I know that Tim comes from a strict religious background,'' Cole said. "I consider myself a fairly religious person as well. If his philosophy doesn't allow him to attend, I completely understand. I know that all of the turndowns . . . and they average about one every two years, or one out of every 50 invitations extended, are not based on a player's religious views. Sometimes there is a girlfriend or wife who, for whatever reason, does not want the player to attend. Sometimes there is some other scheduling conflict with something going on in the player's life.''
Higbee, who works closely with Tebow on his media obligations, didn't even bother to discuss the matter with the Tebow, who recently won an ESPY Award for top college male athlete, until months later. He figured Tebow's religious beliefs would cause him to decline, anyway. Higbee said it came up in a conversation recently, and Tebow was fine with the decision.
Tebow may not have made the team, anyway.
"To be honest, Pat White was my choice from very early on . . . actually the end of last season,'' Cole said. "I love the way he plays the game. I love what he has accomplished in his career at West Virginia. He's a senior. Tebow will probably be around for a couple of more years. So we still have the chance to have him on the team whether or not he chooses to attend (the Playboy function honoring him).''
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BY DAVID JONES - Florida Today