The connection between Dan Mullen and Tim Tebow dates to 2006. Mullen was in his second year as the Florida Gators’ offensive coordinator while Tebow was getting ready for his freshman season at UF.
Together, they played a pivotal role in Florida winning two national championships over three years and putting out one of the most prolific offenses in Gators football history. Since then, Mullen spent nine years leading the Mississippi State football program and Tebow went on to a brief NFL career before making the switch to sports broadcasting and then a run at a professional baseball career.
Mullen is now back at UF — this time as the head coach — and Tebow likes what he sees from the former program.
“I think he’s doing a great job,” Tebow said Sunday on the SEC Network following a game with the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, the New York Mets’ Double A affiliate. “Obviously he’s 0-0. They haven’t played any games yet, but I tell you what, what he’s been able to bring to the University of Florida, the spark, the intensity in the weight room, the talks with guys, the work with the quarterbacks, everything coming out of Florida is positive. It’s going in the right direction.”
That’s needed considering the state of the Gators’ football program. UF hasn’t won an SEC title since 2008, Mullen’s last year there.
Florida has also had two coaches come and go over the past seven seasons, a timeframe in which UF went 52-36 and had a pair of four-win seasons in 2013 and 2017 — the only times since 1979 that UF finished a season with a losing record.
Mullen has said multiple times that he knows the expectations are to get the Gators back to their glory days sooner rather than later.
He wants that, too. But Mullen also acknowledged that the program isn’t going to rise and compete with the other top programs in the country without putting in the proper work.
“Just because you have a gator on the side of your helmet doesn’t mean you get to be a great football player,” Mullen said at a speaking tour stop in Fort Lauderdale in May. “You have to earn that every single day. There’s a standard that’s been set by a lot of people that came before them that they’re expected to build upon. They have to learn how to work to live up to that standard. If we can do that, we’ll be on the right track of getting the program back to where it needs to be.”
Tebow, who will be inducted into UF football’s ring of honor this season, said he sees the buy-in from inside the program. The next step is putting it on display when the season begins on Sept. 1.
“[He’s] holding guys accountable, making them go to class, making them train, bringing back that dedication that was once there,” Tebow said. “I think he’s turning the program around, and I think you’ll see it in the fall and you’ll see it in some wins as well.”