CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tim Tebow still wants – and trains for – another NFL opportunity.
Still, while the 26-year-old free agent quarterback waits for another chance to play professional football, he isn’t about to let a potential dream job pass him by.
Tebow is embracing his latest passion: working as a football analyst for ESPN’s new SEC Network, which debuts Aug. 14.
“I love doing this,” an enthusiastic Tebow told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “I want to do this for a long time. I love talking football, and I love being around it.”
The only thing he doesn’t like is “having to wear this” suit, Tebow said, laughing and tugging at his gray jacket coat. “I’d rather be in shorts.”
Tebow said his agent has fielded some calls from interested NFL teams – he declined to name which teams – but added no deal is imminent.
Most NFL teams are two weeks into training camp, so Tebow knows he’s missing valuable time.
Over the past several months he’s been trying to balance learning his new job and staying in peak physical condition in case that call comes. He works out five to six times per week in Los Angeles, Arizona or Florida depending on his busy travel schedule.
“I’m kind of a vagabond these days,” he said.
Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said it surprises him Tebow hasn’t landed on an NFL roster since the New England Patriots cut him Aug. 31, 2013.
“I’m a big fan of his, and he knows it. He has always given me fits when I’ve had to coach against him,” Rivera said of Tebow, who is 8-6 as an NFL starter. “He’s a playmaker, and he plays a different kind of football. All the guy has ever done is win. ... He’s one of those guys if you were struggling at quarterback, hey, why wouldn’t you give him a shot?”
But the Panthers – and 31 others teams – haven’t given Tebow a shot.
Tebow said he’s not exactly sure why.
But his new bosses at ESPN know if that call from the NFL does come, he’ll likely need to leave without much notice. Justin Connolly, ESPN’s senior vice president in charge of programming for college networks, said that’s fine with him.
Connolly pointed out that Tebow did well as analyst during the national championship game and that when the network hired Tebow – who has more than 2.5 million Twitter followers – it saw unprecedented social activity.
“We want to be fair to Tim in terms of things that are important to him, but at the same time we want him as a part of this network,” Connolly said. “If something happens, he has a place to come back to.”
Tebow doesn’t hide his desire to play in the NFL, but also seems resigned to the idea there is life after playing quarterback – and maybe it’s not so bad.
Tebow will serve as a football analyst for “SEC Nation,” traveling to a weekly SEC game in advance to break down film and give insight into key story lines.
Outside of playing in the NFL, he said it’s pretty close to being his dream job.
“The thing is, I would do this anyway at home because I love it,” Tebow said. “I would be watching every football game anyways and talking to the TV set. It’s my nature. It’s what my family and I have done since I was 6 years old.”
Tebow was in Charlotte to film a segment for the first show, which will be broadcast to 90 million homes across the United States.
He hopes to bring a unique insight given his SEC experience playing at Florida.
“I’m excited to talk about Xs and Os and really giving the viewers an opportunity to see what it is like as a quarterback making decisions, going through the reads and coverages,” Tebow said. “Hopefully they can get a feel for learning offenses.”
He said the job also keeps him in the national spotlight, which not only helps in his search for an NFL team but helps with his Tebow Foundation.
Tebow doesn’t hold any grudges.
He’s not angry that NFL teams haven’t called. He said he feels like if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.
But there is a possibility that this is it for one of college football’s greatest players.
“I don’t like to talk hypotheticals,” Tebow said with a smile. “I deal with the real life situations. I treat every day as a blessing. And it’s a blessing to be here doing what I’m doing.”