Decadelong wait ends for many fans as hometown football legend Tim Tebow suits up for Jaguars

Former Gators star wears No. 85 jersey while walking to practice fields in Jacksonville

TE Tim Tebow, wearing No. 85, walks from the stadium in downtown Jacksonville to the practice fields on Thursday after signing with the Jaguars. (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s a sight many Jacksonville football fans have been waiting to see for more than a decade: Hometown football legend Tim Tebow suiting up for the Jaguars. 

A News4Jax camera on Thursday captured Tebow, 33, sporting a No. 85 jersey while walking from the stadium in downtown Jacksonville to the practice fields after he signed a contract with the Jaguars.

The former University of Florida and Nease High School quarterback is trying to get a starting spot with the team as a tight end.

The Heisman Trophy winner’s addition to the squad has thrilled Jaguars fans who also rooted for Tebow throughout his career at Nease, Florida and then in the NFL with the Broncos, Jets, Patriots and Eagles.

“It has been incredible. I’m a big Gator fan, so I love Tim. I love his passion. I love his drive,” fan David Mendenhall said Thursday outside TIAA Bank Field. 

Mendenhall had on a Tebow Gators jersey when he met News4Jax outside the stadium. 

“Yes, this is one of his college jerseys -- one of the favorites in my collection,” he said.

The addition of Tebow has left some local retailers who sell sports apparel scrambling. 

“There’s been such a ruckus in the background that this was potentially going to happen, but it’s such a huge thing, I don’t know that I necessarily bought into it was a real thing,” said Mathew Smith with Sports Mania in Jacksonville Beach. 

Smith said he’s now trying to find suppliers who can get him Tebow Jaguars merchandise, but it’s very hard because he’s already trying to gather merchandise for quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

“It has completely put me into a tailspin mentally that we have Tim Tebow in Jacksonville on the Jaguars, so scrambling, trying to talk to retailers,” said Smith.

While Tebow was wearing No. 85 on Thursday, there has been discussion if he would want No. 15, which was the number he wore at Florida, but right now, that number is worn by quarterback Gardner Minshew II. Minshew’s status in Jacksonville has taken a back seat to the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft, and there has been discussion if he’ll remain with the team by next season.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport also tweeted that Tebow’s jersey number could change.

News4Jax asked Smith if he thinks Tebow will sell more merchandise than Lawrence. Smith doesn’t think so. He said the quarterback almost always sells the most merchandise. But with Tebow’s longtime popularity in Jacksonville, this is somewhat uncharted territory for the Jaguars fan base.

This is not Tebow’s first flirtation with the Jaguars. The team was considered a possibility when he was drafted in 2010. There was also some drama when there was talk he might be traded to Jacksonville from Denver, but he wound up in New York.

Years later, he’s now donning the teal and black of the hometown team, but he still has to make the team as the Jaguars trim down to a 53-man roster.

News4Jax sports anchor and reporter Jamal St. Cyr also pointed out that with other free agent signings, the team has immediately conducted a news conference to introduce the player. That has not happened so far with Tebow.

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