Back then he was known as Timmy, but little else has since changed for Jets quarterback Tim Tebow.
Before he became the most talked about athlete in the nation, Tebow was an 11-year-old playing Peewee football in Florida for the Lakeshore Renegades. Lakeshore was consistently among the most successful in the country during that era, but for a player who would become associated with being a winner, Tebow lost his first two games as quarterback.
“Timmy started working with me on the weekends and nonpractice days to get better,” Tebow’s Peewee coach David Hess told Metro.
“Timmy was a tight end the year prior. He wanted to be a quarterback, and even at an early age you could tell he had the leadership qualities necessary to lead the team. Personally, I believe football reveals character more than it builds it. Leadership is not a learned trait. You either have it or you don’t.”
The hours spent with Hess helped shape a work ethic that has become legendary. Hess had some unique drills to help mold his young quarterback, including putting him on one knee and having him throw with only his upper body — a drill where he routinely fired passes of 35 yards from that position.
The hard work paid off, as after the two losses to start the season, the Renegades would rebound to win the city championship. They went through the opening two rounds of the state playoffs before losing the regional championship to the eventual national champions.
After losing the regional championship as an 11-year-old, Hess remembers the winning coach during the trophy presentations saying “this kid will be a pro quarterback someday.”
“I thought it was such a bold statement at the time — probably why I remembered it,” Hess said.
Tebow told Metro he remembers his Pop Warner days and for his birthday in August, his parents put together a DVD of him playing sports growing up, including T-ball, youth basketball and clips from when he was on the Renegades.
“It’s really eerie how similar I was playing football when I was 6 — the same moves and the same mannerisms,” Tebow told Metro. “It was really funny to watch.
“All that started with my mom and dad, but coach Hess was a great coach,” Tebow said. “One offseason he said to buy a jump rope and do it every single day and I did it. He gave me all these different things to do with it and I came back so much quicker and faster.”
Now his work ethic is legendary and his commitment to retaining a physical edge is impressive. His teammates tease they’ve never seen him eat junk food and more than one veteran on the Jets has likened Tebow to former running back Thomas Jones, who was notorious around the locker room for hitting the weight room for hours on end.
“I have always tried to improve and work hard. I’ve always played and been motivated with somewhat of a chip on my shoulder. Coach Hess was a great coach. You don’t really find many of them [at that level],” Tebow said. “It’s pretty cool. He was a great coach to have. ... In those days [it] was probably more competitive than they are now. He’s a great coach that was a lot of fun. “
Even in middle school, the coaching staff had to adjust to Tebow and Hess had to overhaul his offense for a player who is as unconventional as they come.
“To better utilize his skills, we revamped the offense to include more run-pass option with him and spread the defense. At no point, did I see him get discouraged about the losses but he worked harder to improve at what I was asking of him,” Hess said. “He would work with me individually outside of regular practice. He just loved being a quarterback.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.