THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, and welcome, everybody, to today’s media call. As we approach the final hours of 2013, on behalf of ESPN we want to wish you a happy and healthy new year to all on the phone.
As you’ve all seen by now, one of our final announcements of 2013 is going to play a major role in one of ESPN’s significant new projects coming up in 2014, and that is Tim Tebow, former Heisman Trophy winner and national champion at Florida, has been hired as an analyst for the SEC Network, which launches in August. Tim will work on the network’s traveling pregame show called SEC Nation, originating from a different campus each week with host Joe Tessitore. Tim will also contribute to other ESPN platforms beginning this Monday, January 6, when he appears on various pregame shows throughout the day in advance of Monday night’s BCS National Championship on ESPN.
On the call with us today are two SEC Network executives: Senior Vice President of Programming Justin Connolly, and Vice President of Productions Stephanie Druley, along with Mr. Tim Tebow.
We’re going to ask Justin and Stephanie to each make a brief remark, followed by opening remarks from Tim, and then we’ll take your questions.
JUSTIN CONNOLLY: Thanks, Josh. I’m a little bit surprised you didn’t spell Tim Tebow’s name, but I assume everyone knows how to do that already. I’ll be brief here. There are a number of individuals who work with Tim, people from the SEC and colleagues from ESPN who helped make this happen, and while I won’t list their names, I certainly want to thank them for their work in bringing Tim Tebow to the SEC Network and to ESPN.
We talk a lot about creating a network and getting a list of people to make that happen, and we’re thrilled to welcome Tim to this team. His passion, his dedication and his work ethic are unquestioned. He has incredible poise and presence, and he’s one of the most accomplished SEC athletes of all time. Any time in my travels when I meet someone who’s worked with Tim or knows him well, the refrain is similar, and that is they express admiration and note that he’s a special person.
I believe that that combination bodes well for Tim as a television analyst, as a contributor to SEC Network, and for the overall success of the SEC Network.
We’re thrilled to have him. With that, I’ll turn it over to Stephanie Druley, who will talk about how Tim is going to contribute specifically.
STEPHANIE DRULEY: Tim will join Joe Tessitore, who we’ve already announced is our host of SEC Nation, as one of the analysts for the show. When you look for an analyst you look for someone who can provide unique perspective and give their opinion through the vision of their own experience, and I don’t think anyone has had a more unique experience than Tim Tebow, especially in the SEC.
I expect him to be a new voice, an exciting voice, and a different perspective than we’ve heard before.
THE MODERATOR: Now we want to officially welcome Tim Tebow to ESPN and the SEC Network with some opening remarks.
TIM TEBOW: Thank you. I appreciate those comments. They mean a lot, and thank you, everyone, for being on this call. I’ll try not to waste too much of your time, and I hope you’re having a wonderful holidays and a great New Year’s Eve and you have a great night and a great New Year’s tomorrow. I just wish you all the blessings. Thank you for being on this call.
I think first and foremost I’d just like to thank ESPN for pursuing me and for this partnership and for this great opportunity. In particular I’d like to thank Mr. Skipper, Mr. Wildhack, and obviously Ms. Druley and Mr. Connolly for their great relationship with me and the opportunity over the last few months to really get to know them that much better and gain a lot of trust in them.
I really feel like it’s a great situation and opportunity for me, and I’m really looking forward to many years together and a lot of great times. Thank you very much, and I look forward to taking y’all’s questions.
Q. Tim, how does this new position mesh with your wishes to continue to play NFL football if the opportunity arises? How will you keep yourself balanced between both things that you’d like to do?
TIM TEBOW: Well, it’s been such a blessing, getting to know everyone at ESPN, and because of our great relationship, they’ve been so generous to me to let me continue to pursue my dream of being an NFL quarterback, and I will continue to push myself to become better every single day, not only as a quarterback, but also as an analyst. If I get the opportunity to continue to play quarterback in the NFL, I would love to do so, but I also want to be the best analyst I can be for many years to come, and I’m thankful for that partnership.
I felt like right now was a great opportunity to start.
Q. So much of your public persona obviously has been sort of a positive message and not criticizing people. How do you plan to critique people in your role as a TV analyst?
TIM TEBOW: Well, thank you for saying that I’m someone who’s positive. I would love to continue to be someone who’s positive but also be someone that is objective. I’ve never had a hard time saying what I believed or standing up for something, and hopefully I can continue to be that same person as an analyst and sharing what I believe about players, about teams, about games. I will look at it from an objective prism and try to share an insight with the viewers just like I always have any time I’ve had the opportunity to share.
STEPHANIE DRULEY: Can I jump in there? Tim is a very nice person, and we all know the role model that he is, but he’s also a football junkie. He lives, breathes and eats the game. That’s what you look for in an analyst, and the best analysts teach somebody, teach the viewers about the game, and I think Tim will do an excellent job with that.
I’m confident that he’ll give opinions where it needs to be given. If criticism is warranted, I think he’ll give criticism. But I think that criticism will be educated and well‑thought‑out.
Q. Tim, I was just wondering, did you consult with any former players who have become analysts or consultants about what this decision means for your long‑term prospects in the league?
TIM TEBOW: Well, I’ve had the great opportunity of having some great friends that have gone on and have done this, and being able to talk with them, they’ve had some great feedback for me.
For me it’s been a great understanding of what they’ve had to go through and the transition process, and I’m really blessed to have those friends to be able to understand more about what this transition process looks like.
Q. If the NFL doesn’t pan out for you long‑term, do you want to be an analyst long‑term, and what interests you about being on TV?
TIM TEBOW: Well, ever since I was young, I grew up watching College Gameday. I loved it. Before I’d play Pop Warner games I’d watch Gameday and then go to my games, and it would make me excited and it was fun. And then getting the opportunity to play in the SEC and be a part of a lot of great traditions in college football, it just feels like home. Not only does it feel like home but it feels like history. I love it. I’m still passionate about the game. I think I’ll always be passionate about the game and passionate about sharing it with fans and viewers that want to understand it deeper and understand the meaning of why is this offense doing this and why is the defense doing this and be able to share those insights that you’ve been blessed to have because you were a player and you were in this, you understand the traditions, the rivalries, everything that’s going on. I’d love the opportunity to share that, and also it’s history for me, so it’s a lot of fun.
I know that I always want to be around football, and hopefully I can do this for a long time to come.
Q. This question is for Justin Connolly: Justin, Tim is very open and public with his faith. He’s always talked about using his platforms to espouse that Christianity for him is about having a relationship with Jesus Christ. ESPN and other sports networks have always been reticent about commentators bringing religion into commentary, and your own network at times has apologized to viewers when religion has become, in your own network’s words, too much of a distraction. I want to know for you where does this line lay for the SEC Network, and how comfortable are you with Tim discussing these issues either on air or on social media as now an employee of ESPN.
JUSTIN CONNOLLY: Sure, we acknowledge and understand that Tim’s faith is a big part of who he is. It’s part of what makes him special, and we certainly respect that.
At the same time we hired him for his football opinions and his analysis of football and his experience and his view and knowledge of the SEC and the SEC fans and playing in the SEC, and we know that that’s what our audience expects from him.
In terms of kind of the question on a bright line, I think that’s a piece of kind of a continuing dialogue between ESPN and Tim and one that’s Stephanie and I will have with him. But the reality is we hired Tim based on his ability to break down players’ games, give a kind of behind‑the‑scenes look into what it’s like to compete and play in the SEC at the highest level, and that’s what the fans will expect, and that’s what the focus of the relationship is going to be.
Q. Tim, I was wondering, why would you think ESPN is a better opportunity as opposed to playing someplace besides the NFL?
TIM TEBOW: Well, you know, this is an awesome opportunity for me because it’s also the start of something. It’s the start of SEC Nation, which is exciting, and it’s fun to be at the ground level of something when it’s just being built, and to be a part of something and to try to help something grow from the bottom up, and that’s what we’re excited to do, and I’m excited to be a part of it.
Q. Tim, when did this start? What led to it? Take us through how you ended up with ESPN.
TIM TEBOW: Well, I’ve had a great relationship with Mr. Skipper for a while and really got to know Mr. Wildhack through this process, and just felt really comfortable with them, and they understood my passion for the game of football, my love for being a quarterback and pursuing that. They didn’t want to take that away from me. They wanted to make me a part of the family, and I felt like part of the family, and I felt like this SEC Nation was a great fit for me, and they’re going to let me pursue my dream of being a quarterback, but at the same time being part of SEC Nation and being part of the ESPN family, I felt like it was a great fit for me.
Q. Obviously with the SEC Network being in Charlotte, and obviously you’ll be traveling on game days, but I was curious how much you anticipate being in Charlotte, what’s going to be your home base, and what will be your commitments to Charlotte? And maybe that’s a question that Justin and Stephanie can jump in on.
TIM TEBOW: Well, I’m not sure where I’ll be living. I know we have to travel a lot every single week, so I’m sure I’ll be on the road a lot. It won’t be too foreign to me because I feel like I’ve done that a lot over the last few years bouncing from team to team, so that won’t be too much of a transition for me. But I’m sure I’ll have to be there from time to time, but I’m not sure where my home base will be.
Q. My question is who have you studied as a commentator? Do you have any people that you want to sort of study to be like, and also what do you think is going to be the biggest challenge in this new role?
TIM TEBOW: Well, I’ve had great opportunities to be around a lot of them, whether I was in college and they were interviewing me or I was hanging out with them or I was on the Gameday set or just being around different guys and becoming friends with certain guys and girls that do it and that do it very well. I think I tried to learn a little bit from everyone and tried to take what they do well and try to learn from it, and I’ll continue to try to learn every single day to be the best I can, just like I would in the game of football.
Q. I just wondered if you could talk a little bit more about what may be in the future for your football career. Do you think that window has closed, or do you think there’s an opportunity down the road and you just want to see how far this ESPN opportunity progresses?
TIM TEBOW: Well, you know, I’ve said this quote a lot, but I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds my future. I’m not sure what’s ahead of me. I’m very excited to have this opportunity at ESPN, and who knows what’s going to ‑‑ the next few months will hold. I will continue to train to be the best quarterback that I can be, and I have been training very hard over the course of the last few months, five days a week, and I feel like I’m the best that I’ve ever been as a quarterback right now. I hope I get the opportunity to show that. But I’m also looking forward to being part of SEC Nation and being part of ESPN.
Q. To sort go off that question, obviously you’re going to have a big, busy travel schedule and a lot of commitments to ESPN. If you’re also trying to get back into the NFL, how will that impact your training?
TIM TEBOW: Well, I don’t think it’ll impact my training. Right now I’ll only be doing one game and that’s the National Championship, and then I’ll have a little time off, so I don’t think I’ll get too out of shape just by one game. I’ll keep in pretty decent shape. I’ll find time.
JUSTIN CONNOLLY: I’d love to jump in there for a second in terms of one of the things that I think is consistently noted about Tim is his preparation, his work ethic, which is unparalleled, and look, the expectation and the commitment here is on both sides, and in particular as it relates to the network and the pregame show. Provided Tim, and we know he will, brings that same level of preparation and focus, we have our sights very high on how good this show can be and how great Tim can be for the network and for ESPN.
Q. What was your reaction when the Patriots released you? Were you surprised you didn’t receive interest throughout the year from the other franchises, especially the Jaguars?
TIM TEBOW: Well, for me I try not to worry about what I can’t control. I know I’ve said that statement a lot, but it’s very true. I just tried to focus on becoming a better quarterback, becoming a better athlete, and being ready whenever an opportunity and a team gave me a call.
Q. I wanted to know, do you look back at your time in the NFL and feel that you have any ‑‑ is it unfinished business for you in terms of always wanting that ‑‑ you’ve mentioned it before and a lot, but is there anything you want to do differently maybe if you’re hoping to come back to the NFL?
TIM TEBOW: Well, I don’t have any regrets if that’s what you’re asking, because every time I’ve stepped on the field in a practice or the game, I gave everything that I’ve had, and because I did that, I don’t have any regrets, and I’m very thankful for that. I plan to approach being part of ESPN the same way, to go out with all my heart, full force, and give everything I have to being the best analyst that I can be and giving everything that I have, and I look forward to doing so. If given the opportunity to continue with my dream of being quarterback in the NFL, I will approach it the exact same way, just hopefully being a little bit better and working to make my weaknesses my strengths and make my strengths just a little bit stronger.
Q. You’re obviously very familiar with the SEC fan base. Have you heard much reaction to the launch of a brand new network that includes moving some of the games from free over the air broadcasting to cable?
TIM TEBOW: Well, I’ve heard a little bit of the talk, and I’m sure I will be asked about it. Like I answered before, I try not to worry about what I can’t control, so I’m just going to focus right now on becoming a great analyst and working to understand the process and learn from the great people that have come before me. That really will be my focus.
JUSTIN CONNOLLY: Our mission here is to create something special for SEC fans and for fans across the country, and I think you can just look at our decisions, whether they be on the talent side and bringing Tim aboard, or the programming announcements we’ve made about the number of live events we’re going to cover, in terms of what we’re creating as a real value proposition for the consumers as it relates to the SEC and nationally here.
Again, another great addition to have Tim in the mix here, but that’s really the overall focus for the network right now.
TIM TEBOW: And I think another part that’s very exciting for me is to give all this passion to SEC fans, a little more of an in‑depth look of what the teams are going through, what the players are going through, sometimes what the rivalries are about, what the game plans are about. That’s also what really excites me.
Q. Was Urban Meyer one of those people? I know you and Coach Meyer are close, and he certainly worked with ESPN.
TIM TEBOW: I have talked to Coach Meyer. I talk to him a lot. I always get advice from him on a lot of different subjects, and this was definitely one of them. He had nothing but great things to say about everyone that he worked with, all of his partners, and he enjoyed the time that he spent with ESPN, and he shared that with me.
Q. You earlier mentioned ESPN is working with you as you still pursue your quarterback career. I’m wondering on specifics, because obviously you don’t want to go out on a Thursday and have an NFL team call you up in October. Is there a drop‑dead date or understanding, and this question can be for Justin or you, as to when you can pursue that quarterback career versus when you need to commit at least for this season to being available every Saturday?
TIM TEBOW: Well, I think because we have a great relationship, that’ll be an ongoing process that we can continue to just talk about, and we’ve got a great relationship, and I’m thankful for that relationship.
For me most things in life are about the relationships, and my relationship with Coach Meyer is why I went to the University of Florida. My relationship with Craig Howard is why I went to Nease High School. My relationship with Jimmy Sexton is why I signed with him as my agent. And my relationship with everyone at ESPN is why I felt comfortable to do this. And when you have great relationships, you can work through situations like that.
JUSTIN CONNOLLY: Yeah, I’d just add that it was important for Tim that he have and maintain the ability to pursue his interest in becoming an NFL quarterback, and that is something we were certainly willing to include as a part of bringing him aboard to this team, and so, you know, in terms of specific situations, I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and comment on any particular eventuality or scenario that you could put together, but that’s a key piece of this relationship, and we’re going to honor that and respect it.
Q. Obviously in this role you will likely come to Gainesville a time or two. What kind of emotions do you think that might stir within you coming down in a totally different role?
TIM TEBOW: Well, you know I’ll always be a Gator, but I have to be objective, as well, and I believe I can do that. It’s always fun to go to Gainesville and be a part of Gator Nation, which I love and I’ll always love, but I’ve got to be objective and do the best job I can do, as well, and I look forward to that challenge, and it’ll be a lot of fun for me to do so.
I just want to thank everyone for being on this call and just wish you all a great new year and God bless you all. Thank you for this opportunity, ESPN, and Justin and Stephanie, thank you for being on the call, and thank you, Josh, and I look forward to hopefully one day meeting everyone on this call. God bless you all and have a great new year.