The SEC Network made their debut on University of Florida with a live shot of Joe Tessitore and Tim Tebow.
After two weeks of traveling to campuses across the south, Tebow and the SEC Nation crew returned to Gainesville to broadcast their Saturday morning show live from the Plaza of the America’s in Gainesville.
SEC Nation didn’t send out an announcement or do any publicity for the filming they would do on Friday afternoon but there were still hundreds of students assembled behind the set, cheering, chomping and, of course, chanting “TEE-BOW, TEE-BOW.”
“The fans, the environment, all these fans. I mean it’s Friday afternoon and most of them should probably be in school, but they’re out here and they’re excited about it and that’s been every week,” Tebow said. “You know that’s something that’s super exciting about this show because it is an emotional passionate ride and I love that.”
There was no public relations necessary. When Tim Tebow comes back to Gainesville people can just sense it. After four years and an incredible journey, Tebow is the Chosen One in Gainesville and it was quite a sight for his new co-workers to behold.
Marcus Spears, who said his favorite memory of Gainesville was picking off Rex Grossman in the Swamp when he played for LSU under Will Muschamp, was taking in the chanting from the assembled fans and giving Tebow a good ribbing while the two were on set.
“You could tell that he left an indelible mark, an impression around people down here,” Spears said. “We had a girl crying. When you can make someone cry, you kinda a big deal. The dude’s a big deal.”
The host of the show, Tessitore has more than 30 years of experience in broadcasting. He’s talked to some of the best athletes around the world, rubbed elbows with some of the most polarizing people In sports but, even after all he has seen, was taken back by the reception Tebow got.
Not the reception he got in Gainesville, oh no. Tessitore was worried about how fans would react to the fourth member of the show, “the Mouth of the South”, Paul Finebaum, when the show went to Auburn, Alabama. Little did the SEC Nation crew know, Tebow would be the star that day as his reach goes out much further than just Gainesville.
“We thought we needed extra security [for Finebaum],” he said. “Later, we found out that we needed extra security for Tim because we had our production meeting on Friday on the Auburn campus student union and we have hundreds of co-eds waiting outside our meeting within two hours and we had police help us out of our meeting.”
Tessitore has been pleasantly surprised with how Tebow has taken to being a talking head on television. He says that both Spears and Tebow attack being television personalities the way they attacked being football players.
After shooting his segment for SEC Now, Tebow spent more than an hour signing autographs and taking pictures in 95-degree heat.
“I mean these are his people, right? So when he walks out of that bus, it’s a sight to be seen and it’s wonderful,” Tessitore said. “It’s kind of like the difference between college football and every other sport we have. This is their blood. This is their life. This is their identity. And he loves soaking it all in.”
Tebow was dragged away from the mob of fans to do media. He answered questions from more than 20 media members, ending the session with a signature “God bless” that sounds more genuine than you can imagine.
Tebow has a way of speaking directly to people, even when he’s talking to a group or just passing by in the middle of hundreds of clamoring fans just trying to get close enough to touch him. It’s part of the mystique. Sure, there were championships, trophies and a lot of wins during his time in Gainesville but Tebow’s personality and genuine nature is what really draws Gator fans to him.
And he’s always happy to return the love.
“Being here at the university of Florida, obviously I get very nostalgic,” Tebow said. “All these great fans, getting the opportunity to make their day by taking a picture do something nice for them — that’s worth it for me.”