GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Georgia Hall of Famer Herschel Walker and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow first met at the 2007 Heisman Trophy presentation.
Walker was there celebrating the 25th anniversary of his Heisman. Tebow was one of four finalists, and the winner, that season. They spent several hours talking about football, family and faith.
They shared the spotlight then, and they’re back in it now.
Tebow tied Walker’s Southeastern Conference record for career rushing touchdowns last week with the 49th of his career. He could break the mark Saturday in his hometown of Jacksonville — and maybe just as fittingly — against Walker’s Bulldogs.
"It’s an honor to be even mentioned or tied with Herschel," Tebow said. "That’s pretty cool and it’s actually very humbling and when you sit back to think about it, like, ‘Wow, Herschel Walker, I’m tied with him.’
"It’s pretty cool and it’s pretty exciting to actually think about, and to break it versus Georgia would be really cool and special."
Tebow has 466 yards rushing and six touchdowns this season. His 26-yard scoring run last week at Mississippi State tied him with Walker atop the SEC list.
The 245-pound quarterback already owns the SEC record for touchdowns responsible for with 124 (75 passing, 49 rushing), breaking the previous mark (122) set by Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel in 1996. Tebow holds four NCAA, 10 SEC and 24 school records.
This one, though, stands out from the rest. It’s arguably Tebow’s most recognizable trait: Bulling his way into the end zone.
"Down the road, it’ll be really fun to look back at," Tebow said.
Tebow certainly will be remembered as one of the conference’s greatest players, probably even in the same conversation as Walker.
"They’re both legends," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "There’s no question that Tim Tebow made his mark on Florida football, SEC football and the entire nation. He’s going to be one of those guys remembered for as long as people care about college football. Herschel is the same way."
Walker carried the Bulldogs to the national title in 1980, finishing with 1,616 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns as a freshman. He was even better the next two years, adding 1,891 yards rushing and 18 scores as a sophomore and 1,752 yards rushing and 16 TDs as a junior.
A three-time Heisman finalist, Walker’s rushing records might be out of reach had he decided to return to Georgia for his senior season.
"He was the man," Richt said. "You would see him running guys over and diving over the top. He was just such a big, strong man to do some of the things he could do physically. I also recall him being interviewed somewhere along the way and thinking, ‘He’s very, very humble.’ He was pretty country. He just looked like a Georgia boy. He was something special."
Florida faithful feel the same way about Tebow.
He ran for eight TDs as a freshman in 2006, added 23 during his Heisman-winning season in 2007 and found the end zone 12 more times last season. Throw in his passing prowess and two national championship rings, and there’s little doubt he’s the most accomplished player in school history and one of the best in SEC history.
But how do Walker and Tebow compare against each other?
Former Georgia quarterback Buck Belue, who played with Walker, said he would put Walker and Tebow "1 and 1a" — in no particular order — as the greatest players in conference history.
"A Florida man is going to have Tebow first and a Georgia man is going to have Herschel first," Belue said. "But on my list, gosh, what’s the difference really? You’re talking about two of the greatest guys who ever lined up. And it’s not just about the stats and the numbers. It’s about the way you represented college football and represented your school.
"Nobody could have done it better than those two guys, under the scrutiny and pressure that they’ve had to deal with. And to me, that’s more impressive than the pure numbers they put up. The caliber of the person. The character. Even as a Georgia man, I’m not pulling against Tim Tebow. Maybe Saturday, but other that."
Pointing to numbers, individual awards and championships, Belue could only think of one other player to put in the same conversation as Walker and Tebow, and that was Ohio State great Archie Griffin.
But the only two-time Heisman winner might not get as much love in this part of the country.
"At least here in the Southeast, it looks like to me for a long time, it’s going to be the legend of Herschel and the legend of Tim Tebow," Belue said.