2007 was college football’s strangest year, so it only makes sense that its Heisman Trophy winner has had one of the strangest careers ever.
Florida’s Tim Tebow won a national title in 2008, then surprisingly got drafted in the first round as a QB by the Broncos. Despite an unorthodox throwing motion, he still holds the record for yards per completion in an NFL playoff game. He started 16 games for the Broncos and Jets, got a Patriots tryout years later, started a meme, was one of football’s most popular and controversial players, and inspired the weirdest thing SB Nation had ever published until 2017.
He then had a television career with ESPN, all while pursuing his NFL dream ... until he began pursuing an MLB dream. He’s since rang up more minor-league homers than Michael Jordan had, miraculously healed a fan, gotten surprisingly promoted, been advised by us to take up a career as a knuckleballer, and ... become baseball’s most popular and controversial player.
When he won the Heisman, did he envision any of this?
"I’m not sure that I imagined I would be playing baseball," he tells SB Nation in an interview, "but so much stuff has happened. And I’m so thankful for all of it, and everything that’s happened. It’s been a whirlwind, but so much fun. And my life is one with a lot of ups and downs and twists and turns, but it definitely keeps me on my toes."
As college football fans, we still love Tebow. He was a key part of two title teams and gave us four years of good memories (though some rival fans might disagree). A decade after his Heisman season, it’s still fascinating to see how he’s thought of by people who aren’t college fans.
But it makes sense. Tebow’s had a strange post-college career.
However, he isn’t the only person to take on some odd jobs following his Heisman days.
Jay Berwanger, Chicago RB, 1935
The award’s first winner was the first pick in the 1935 NFL draft. He wanted $1,000 a game, which never happened. So he went to work at a rubber factory.
Weirder than Tebow? No. At the time, the NFL was just a job. But can you imagine how angry it’d make sports media if a draft pick did this these days?
Davey O’Brien, TCU QB, 1938
After two seasons with the Eagles, he had a 15-year career with the FBI and became an oil man.
Weirder than Tebow? No. By the year 1950, all Americans either worked for the FBI or in milkshake restaurants, and all Texans eventually become oil people.
Tom Harmon, Michigan RB, 1940
He was also picked No. 1, but turned it down to pursue a movie career. He starred in the movie Harmon of Michigan, about his football career. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, then spent two seasons with the Rams. His children include NCIS actor and former UCLA QB Mark Harmon.
Weirder than Tebow? No. Movies were bigger than pro football at the time, and he still gave the NFL a shot anyway.
Bruce Smith, Minnesota RB, 1941
Angelo Bertelli, Notre Dame QB, 1943
Smith received his trophy two days after the Pearl Harbor attack. He became a Navy pilot, after which he played with the Packers and Rams. Bertelli served in the Marines and was actually called to serve in the middle of this season.
Weirder than Tebow? No. Plenty of Heisman winners served in the military, though the timelines for these two are particularly interesting.
Vic Janowicz, Ohio State RB, 1950
He played two years for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1954, he made it to the NFL, then became Washington’s starting halfback, until an automobile accident ended his career.
Weirder than Tebow? No. He started his baseball career right away, rather than waiting almost a decade after leaving college, and he was good enough to record 196 at-bats in the majors.
Dick Kazmaier, Princeton RB, 1951
He skipped the NFL and attended Harvard Business School, then had high-ranking titles that included director of the American Red Cross, director of the LPGA, trustee of Princeton, and chairman of a sports council under Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
Weirder than Tebow? No. Kazmaier did not create a single meme!
Billy Vessels, Oklahoma RB, 1952
He played for the Edmonton Eskimos and the Baltimore Colts before a leg injury cut his career short. He later took up horse breeding, then oversaw the sport’s wagering in the 1980s.
Weirder than Tebow? No. If he’d become the lord of horse gambling within five years of graduation, then we could talk.
Pete Dawkins, Army RB, 1958
He received two bronze stars in the Army, serving during the Vietnam War. In 1988, he unsuccessfully ran for Senate. In the 1990s, he became a Lehman Brothers partner, and later the CEO of an insurance company, Primerica.
Weirder than Tebow? No. Tebow will almost certainly run for office at some point.
Billy Cannon, LSU RB, 1959
Played with the Oilers, Raiders, and Chiefs. After starting his own dentistry practice, he began a counterfeit scheme, printing $6 million in fake money. He served two and a half years in prison and regained his dental license. He’s now a penitentiary dentist in Louisiana and unhappy that he remains LSU’s only Heisman.
Weirder than Tebow? Yes. Tebow has never been a penitentiary dentist by way of a counterfeiting operation.
O.J. Simpson, USC RB, 1968
Has ... done a lot of unusual things. Moving on!
Weirder than Tebow? Yes. Moving on!
Billy Sims, Oklahoma RB, 1978
Played four seasons with the Lions. In 1990, Sims declared bankruptcy, and he sold his Heisman for $50,000. He’s since become a regional barbecue magnate.
Weirder than Tebow? No. Everyone should become a regional barbecue magnate.
Herschel Walker, Georgia RB, 1982
Left for the USFL, because the NFL didn't allow early entry yet, and signed with a team that'd soon be owned by Donald Trump. Eventually, the Vikings traded the farm to the Cowboys for him, launching Dallas' dynasty. He'd go on to be a 1992 Olympic bobsledder and an MMA fighter at age 49.
Weirder than Tebow? Yeah! Lot of multi-sport athletes on here, but those sports? If Tebow takes up his own new sport at age 49, however, we can reconsider.
Bo Jackson, Auburn RB, 1985
Also played baseball. In the majors. Whileplaying pro football. He was an All-Star in both sports.
Weirder than Tebow? No. Bo was one of the greatest athletes ever, and everybody already knew it.
Ricky Williams, Texas RB, 1998
Posed with Mike Ditka in a bride's dress on a magazine cover after Ditka had traded his entire draft for Williams, retired, came back, played in the CFL, made another return to the NFL, was an outspoken advocate for cannabis freedom throughout, and ended up in the NFL's 10,000 rushing yards club.
Weirder than Tebow? Nah. That ESPN cover was awesome.
Charlie Ward, Florida State QB, 1993
Ward opted for basketball. He was drafted in the first round by the Knicks, then played nine seasons in the NBA. He’d also eventually appear in Furious 7, when The Rock watches a video of The Rock sacking Ward in a real Miami-Florida State game.
Weirder than Tebow? No. Ward went pro in a sport he’d played for four years in college and had a successful career. He didn’t wait until he was almost 30 to take up a sport he hadn’t played since high school.
Eric Crouch, Nebraska QB, 2001
Before becoming a playground equipment vendor, he played in the NFL, NFL Europe, CFL, AAFL, and UFL. The Packers drafted the mobile QB as a wide receiver, and he later became a safety.
Weirder than Tebow? No. Crouch did the two things everyone wished the TE-shaped Tebow had done: (1.) Try a different position in the NFL and (2.) give other football leagues a try.