Wearing a white “I Heart Tim Tebow” shirt and a white Florida Gators snapback hat, Max Sommer kneeled down by the hallowed golden plaque with the words from Tebow’s 2008 promise plastered on the brick wall outside the entrance of the University of Florida James W. “Bill” Heavener Football Complex.
The UF freshman was at The Promise plaque Nov. 15 filming the “Moving Like Tebow (Bernie Remix)” music video, which has transformed from a few lyrics typed on an iPhone one boring night in his dormitory into a viral hit with more than 23,000 views in three weeks since being uploaded onto YouTube Nov. 17.
With the weather partly cloudy, Sommer, the writer, co-director and rapper, and three other freshmen involved in the video received a chance encounter. While shooting outside the complex, Florida Gators starting quarterback John Brantley and imposing 6-foot-4 offensive lineman David Young passed by on their way to practice.
“We are like Tebowed out right now,” Sommer said. “All of the sudden, Brantley and David Young start walking to practice. They both look at me. Brantley’s head goes straight down. David Young was staring at me. I could tell he was going to say something.”
“Young asks, ‘So you love Tim Tebow?’”
“I am just scared right now and I say ‘Yeah, but I love John Brantley, too.’ Brantley with his head down gave me a fist pump. David Young asked me whom I liked more and I said Brantley, but I lied to him. I was under pressure.”
The Florida freshman joined forces with 11 other UF freshmen, all of whom are self-described Tebow fans, to film a parody music video incorporating the “Moving Like Bernie” song from the 1989 movie “Weekend at Bernies” and Tebowing, which means to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different, according to Tebowing.com.
Tebowing.com is a Tumblr blog where people from all over the world can submit pictures of themselves Tebowing. The latest entries include someone Tebowing while backpacking Vietnam, someone Tebowing before bungee jumping off a building in China and a classrooom full of students Tebowing before a test.
Tebow is Sommer’s favorite football player, and for the 11 other freshmen involved in producing the video, it is no secret how much Sommer idolizes the player. Alyssa Wozniak, one of the dancers in the group scenes inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, gave an analogy.
“Tim Tebow to Max is like the Backstreet Boys to a 10-year-old girl,” Wozniak said.
The group had two objectives in making the video. Sommer said they wanted to honor Tebow and make a funny video.
Not everyone agrees with the latter. One UF alum posted on YouTube a week ago saying, “UF alum here and I can say without any hesitation that this is embarrassing on so many levels.” Another person complained around the same time saying, “This would’ve been cool if the guy didn’t sound awful.”
Sommer is the first one to admit he does not have the rhythm and flow people are expecting. He is not a rapper and Sommer said for what musical talent he does have, he did a decent job.
Co-director and editor Ryan Lynch spent three to four hours a day behind the camera and 10 hours editing to get to the final cut. Lynch has a message to the people who dislike the video.
“We weren’t trying for a hit single,” Lynch said. “We were trying to make people laugh. They hate us for the wrong reasons. They hate us, because it is not a good song. It doesn’t have good sound quality and all that stuff, but they think it is funny. They hate us for what we weren’t trying to do.”
The group got more than it bargained for once well-known websites such as the Bleacher Report and NBC Sports picked up the video. Lynch has noticed the increased Internet hits.
“Day 1 I would Google it and search ‘Moving Like Tebow,’ and there would be nothing,” Lynch said Nov. 28. “Now, if I do it, there are like three full pages of links.”
A week later, the search now generates six pages of links.
Due to the subject matter, Sommer expected a bit of public backlash with the final product.
“Tebow is such a polarizing figure as it is,” Sommer said. “When you do something about Tebow, it is always going to be split down the middle. People are going to hate it. People are going to love it. Most people around here are going to love it.”
While shooting on location at UF landmarks on campus, he pokes fun at topics like Tebow supporting pro-life, Tebow performing circumcisions in the Philippines and Tebow dominating the Florida State Seminoles during his time at Florida.
Lynch, an industrial engineering major with a passion for television production, did not think Sommer’s idea would materialize into the viral sensation it is today.
“When I first heard him rap it,” Lynch said. “I remember the exact line when I was like ‘Oh, my gosh this is real.’ When I heard him say, ‘I’m talking to you Florida State.’ I got goose bumps.”
He went to his native Tampa and brought back a $400 video camera, which surprised the rest of the crew. There was no looking back.
Sommer’s passion helped the crew get over a few early production hiccups, Kelli Eichorn said. Getting 12 kids to agree on a shooting time was not an easy task and deadlines were an issue. The group wanted to get the video uploaded onto YouTube before Tebow suited up against the New York Jets on Nov. 17 for his fifth start of the season.
“I am not going to lie,” Sommer said. “I was being obnoxious. I wanted to get it out early, because Tebow was playing that night. We wanted it to be out.”
In total, filming took three full days. Mapping out each scene took a week and Sommer even had a sheet with dance moves for everyone to follow. Sommer, a California native, had nine costume changes in the video, which only lasts 3:06.
Everyone in the video except Sommer is from Tampa. Eichorn, Lynch and Randy Mantler were in the television production class at Gaither High School in Hillsborough County.
Sommer, 19, celebrated his birthday on Nov. 19. His friends threw a party for him and blasted the Tebow anthem on loud speakers. Sommer described the dance party that ensued as “nuts.” He also was starting to get recognized by fellow students.
“There was a kid who walked in who shook his hand and I said, ‘What’s up?’ He gave me a nod, no big deal,” Sommer said. “Then someone said, ‘You know that is the Tebow guy?’ Like that, this kid became a new best friend.”
Florida students are not the only people to start watching the video. Dale Dowden, another freshman who helped out, said he neglected to tell his parents about their work. His parents are both UF alums. His father works as an engineer in Tampa.
“The way my dad found out is someone in his office told him,” Dowden said. “He said, ‘You didn’t tell me you were in this video. I watched it and all of the sudden whoa, my son is right there on the screen.’”
Dowden’s close friend Erin Domaracki said Florida senior volleyball player Elissa Hausmann showed the video to a few teammates. Hausmann, who attended Gaither High School as well with Domaracki, told the freshman through Facebook that a few of the UF players enjoyed it.
The video’s volleyball influence stretches across three time zones. Sommer said his girlfriend in California who plays junior college volleyball introduced the video to her team as well.
“They are in the playoffs right now heading into the state tournament,” Sommer said. “They all went crazy and loved it. They made it their team song and dance before their games.”
For Wozniak, the video has allowed her to reconnect with people she has not seen in quite some time.
“My moment was when this kid I haven’t talked to since middle school wrote on my Facebook wall and was like, ‘Were you the girl in the Tebow video?’” Wozniak said. “I was like yeah and he said, ‘You do realize you are an Internet sensation now.’ This was the first day it came out.”
The close friends remember three weeks ago when the video was uploaded the first night.
As the crew had done all season at UF football games, it assembled this time in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center to watch the Gators play an early season basketball game. This meaningless Nov. 17 matchup against North Florida held more significance to these close friends sitting in the student section. Their project was complete.
The endless hours, pressing deadlines and weird looks shot their way were worth it. Sommer called the video the highlight of his first semester at UF.
Is another production in the works?
“We have thought about making more videos in the future, but we do not want to force it,” Sommer said. “We want it to be a natural process. One idea we are thinking is a sad Urban Meyer song. That is barely a seed right now.”