It was a pillow to the head that showed former Florida safety Will Hill that Tim Tebow was just a normal guy — and his kind of teammate and a leader.
A star in Jersey City, N.J., Hill was rated by nearly every recruiting service as a top-five player in the nation during his senior season of high school. Hill played two years of college football with Tebow at Florida and he recalls one day visiting the house of the now Jets quarterback.
The Florida safety walked into the bedroom and “‘Poof’ I get hit in the face with a pillow,” Hill told Metro New York.
“He was having a pillow fight with [former Gators wide receiver] Riley Cooper. He was just laughing and having fun and smiling the whole time.”
That to Hill was Tebow in a nutshell. He uses words like “genuine” and “selfless” to describe the former Heisman winner.
“New York is a lot in terms of pressure, but it is nothing like in Gainesville,” Hill said. “I know people are like ‘No,’ but I lived up here; I come from here. But down there, he had to be driven to class; he had to be driven home.
“Coaches had security for him wherever he had to go. If he was riding a scooter to class, people were running after him. He was a god down there. He won a Heisman and the next year he won the national championship and the next year, we had a shot at it. Everywhere he went, people wanted to be around him, to touch him. But he was always true to himself, true to his family, true to his God. That’s Timmy.”
After a 1-4 start last season, Tebow was inserted into the Broncos starting lineup, leading the team to the AFC West title and a 7-4 finish to the regular season. A playoff win in dramatic fashion followed, only further cementing Tebow as a winner.
It’s a tradition of victories that began when Hill called Tebow a teammate.
“He knows how to motivate his team. Tim is a winner and he knows how to bring the best out of a person,” Hill said.
“The weirdest thing I’ve seen from Tebow was before a game and everyone is in that locker room yelling and you’re hearing the rap music and all the mother ‘effers and he’s sitting there calmly reading his Bible. Just sitting there in his locker like nothing is going on around him even though guys are yelling and the music is loud. He calmly closes his Bible, puts it in his locker, slams his locker and gets up and screams out like a crazyman ‘Let’s go!’ I’m like, ‘Wow, I need to read that verse.’”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.