Tim Tebow has received plenty of national backlash in his pursuit to play tight end for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Tebow, 33, has had multiple workouts for the Jaguars and head coach Urban Meyer, who won two national championships with Tebow as his quarterback at the University of Florida. A former quarterback, Tebow has not played in a regular-season game since 2012.
While Meyer has played it coy after multiple reports that a one-year deal for Tebow is in the works, Mike Ditka -- a Hall of Fame tight end who also coached the Bears to a Super Bowl victory -- would support the Jaguars giving the former Heisman Trophy winner a shot.
"Absolutely," Ditka told USA Today's Jarrett Bell. "Listen, I think he's a good enough athlete. I think he deserves a shot. I'd give him a shot. No problem."
Ditka, who earned five Pro Bowl selections in Chicago before winning a Super Bowl with the Cowboys, played in a much different league. In Ditka's era (the 1960s and early '70s), tight ends did substantially more blocking. Sure, Ditka and several other tight ends in his era (Baltimore's John Mackey comes to mind) were formidable pass-catches -- but a tight end's role was to be a blocker first and a receiver second. That's not the case today, which is one main reason why Ditka feels that Tebow could be successful.
"The tight end today, they don't call on them to do a whole heck of a lot of blocking anymore," Ditka said. "He's basically a receiver. So I think Tebow would be very, very capable and will probably do a good job in that area. I don't see any problem with it.
"Now, if it was the tight end of 20 years ago where you had to block defensive ends, I think it's a bit different. But they don't have to do that anymore. They flank 'em out there, split 'em out five yards and they run routes. He's a good enough athlete where he can beat those guys in the secondary. And I think he'll be a darned good one."
Bell also asked fellow Hall of Fame tight ends Kellen Winslow and Shannon Sharpe, as well as Super Bowl champion Rick "Doc" Walker, to weigh in on Tebow's prospects at tight end. Winslow, a key cog in Don Coryell's innovative offense with the 1980s Chargers, believes that Tebow has the athleticism to play tight end in today's NFL. Walker, whose blocking helped John Riggins run circles around Miami in Super Bowl XVII, feels that Tebow's work ethic would further increase his odds at success.
What does success mean for Tebow? For Sharpe, success for Tebow likely won't be measured by statistics. Rather, it might just be Tebow making the Jaguars' 53-man roster. Given his relationship with the coach, Sharpe feels that Tebow has a decent shot at playing tight end when the season begins.
"I think there's a greater than 50% chance that he makes the team, simply because of where he is," said Sharpe, the first tight end in NFL history to reach 10,000 career receiving yards. "He's from Jacksonville. And he really helped that head coach get on the map in winning two national championships at the University of Florida.
"What do we always say: It's not what you know. Sometimes, it's not even how good you are. It's who you know."