The 2006 Florida Gators were destined for greatness. After finishing the previous season 9-3 and winning the Outback Bowl over the Iowa Hawkeyes, head coach Urban Meyer landed arguably the greatest high school prospect ever: Nease High School’s Tim Tebow. The kid who wasn’t expected to survive being born became a U.S. Army All-American and was named Florida’s High School Player of the Year as a junior and senior.
When Meyer signed Tebow prior to the 2006 college football season, the star freshman was expected to unseat incumbent starting quarterback Chris Leak until Meyer publicly endorsed Leak as the team’s leader. Still, Tebow’s unique skill set to run and throw the football at an elite level was impossible to keep off the field, and that gave berth to a play simply known as “the jump pass.”
Hosting the ninth-ranked LSU Tigers and quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the No. 5 Gators were in an SEC-dog fight in The Swamp. Trailing 7-0 early in the game, Tebow plunged into the end zone from 1-yard out to tie the game. After UF’s next two drives stalled, Tebow re-entered the game once again with Florida threatening near the goal line.
With less than a minute left in the first half, Tebow took the snap from the 1-yard line and ran towards the line of scrimmage. Then, the 230-pound quarterback jumped in the air, double-clutched, and tossed a high arching pass to tight end Tate Casey for a touchdown.
The incredible, unexpected play prompted legendary broadcaster Kevin Harlan to exclaim, “OH MY GOSH! That looks like 1955!”
Tim Tebow threw only two passes in that game, the second being a 35-yard touchdown strike to Louis Murphy early in the third quarter. Tebow’s three-touchdown game was his official hello to Gator Nation as Florida would win the game, 23-10.
The star freshman provided a spark for the Gators all season, which ended with a 41-14 rout of Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith and the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game.
Just two years later, Tebow led Florida back to the BCS National Title game against the Oklahoma Sooners. Clinging to a three-point lead with just over three minutes, the jump pass made another appearance, this time on the biggest stage of them all.
The play was first developed by Florida’s offensive coordinator at the time, a little guy Gators fans now recognize as head coach Dan Mullen. When Mullen was the quarterbacks coach at Utah, he first ran the play for a game-winning, two-point conversion in triple overtime with Utah tight end Ben Moa at QB.
Since then, he added another wrinkle to the jump pass when Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks pulled it off in a rout of Charleston Southern back in 2018.
It’s iconic, game-changing moments like those that made Tebow the only person to be named Florida’s Most Valuable Player three times. It takes a special kind of player to pull off something like this, and while it didn’t exactly translate into NFL success, there was no one better suited to pull off the jump pass than The Sunshine State’s favorite son, Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow.