Posted: 1:14 pm Monday, July 27th, 2009
By Post Staff
That man sporting the orange tie behind the podium sure looks like Lane Kiffin, but he sounded nothing the brash Tennessee coach who set a blowtorch to SEC decorum in his first seven months on the job.
Isn’t Kiffin the guy who bragged about beating Florida at his introductory press conference? The guy that punked Urban Meyer for two recruits, accused Meyer of cheating and sideswiped half of the coaches in the SEC? The guy that called me in April to clear up the brouhaha with the town of Pahokee?
But the man on stage last Friday at SEC Media Days was none of those things. He was humble. He was smooth. He was funny. And, bizarrely, he was HIGHLY complimentary of the Gators and Tim Tebow.
“From the minute I got hired, I have great respect for Florida, what they’ve done there,” Kiffin said. “I would think Florida is not worried one bit about us. We’re 5-7, they’re the powerful Gators. We’re just trying to play in the same conference as them.”
Kiffin’s humility and sense of humor were on display as soon as he strode up to the podium.
His first order of business: Prove that he did, in fact, vote for Tebow for All-SEC Quarterback. Of course, an hour before Kiffin’s speech began, Steve Spurrier admitted he was the culprit.
“He stole the first five minutes of my speech,” Kiffin said. “I had my SEC ballot right here. I was going to have (the moderator) read it. Quarterback, what does that say?”
“Tim Tebow,” the moderator read aloud.
“By the way,” Kiffin added. “I voted for 11 Florida Gators for first team.”
Kiffin then explained that he regretted some of his actions from the previous seven months, and chalked it up to a case of “any news is good news.”
“In Tennessee, as much as we love our state, we do not have a lot of great high school players there. Those are the facts,” Kiffin said. “We couldn’t wait til the season to win games. We had to put Tennessee in the national media. Do I love every single thing I’ve done for my seven months? No, I haven’t loved having to do it. But it needed to be done.”
Kiffin was then asked for his thoughts on Tebow’s NFL prospects. Kiffin coached one-plus seasons with the Oakland Raiders and has a unique perspective. Kiffin answered by referring to a story from five years ago, when Kiffin and several college coaches watched film of Tebow, then a high school prospect.
“One of the coaches said, ‘I don’t know about his throwing motion. Maybe he’s a fullback or something,’” Kiffin said. “I look at the guy, ‘Do you watch the film? Do you watch him?’ The guy is a great competitor. He wins every game he plays. He makes every throw. Is every throw a perfect spiral? Who cares. It’s just like a home run hitter. Do you really care how he comes to the plate and his stance, how he swings? What are the results?”
As for the NFL, “I think it’s going to be the same thing. There’s going to be a million articles written after Tim has a great year, and I would think with all the great players, they’ll win another national championship, he’ll win a Heisman.”
At which I subconsciously emitted a loud “HA!” because, well, it’s Kiffin. Hearing him compliment the Gators after lobbing several hand grenades their way this offseason was too funny. It stopped him in the middle of his answer.
“That wasn’t a joke. I was serious about that,” Kiffin said.
Then he continued: “Well, I don’t know about his throwing motion. Some people will pass on him in the NFL draft. He’ll prove them all wrong. He’ll go and win Super Bowls there.”
Is Tebow a top-five kind of pick?
“I don’t know how he isn’t,” Kiffin said. “If you want to build a program, and you want a quarterback, you want a winner. Here is a guy who came in, all he’s done in his whole career, no matter where he’s been, he wins games. He won the state championship in high school. Now he’s winning national championships, winning three out of four national championships. What more do you want for a leader?”
“A guy that makes a statement after you lose a game by a point, We’ll never lose again, and he backs it up. I promise you, if they ever lose a game again, it won’t be because of him. If I have a top-five pick in the NFL, that’s the guy I want.”