Matt Slauson sees Tim Tebow bringing the Wildcat offense back to New York.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Slauson: Tebow’s Going to be a Star in NYC

By NU Athletic Communications

Osborne: Tebow Forces NFL Back to the Drawing Board

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By Randy York

Matt Slauson, the New York Jets’ starting offensive left guard, was having lunch with former Husker teammate Ricky Henry at a popular downtown Lincoln restaurant Wednesday when his cell phone rang. “Hey, you have a new teammate!” wife Cami told Slauson, who said: “What are you talking about?” So Cami clued him in. “The Jets just traded for (Tim) Tebow,” she said. “He’s your new teammate!”

Slauson, the Jets’ country-loving, hard-working, tough-minded fourth-year pro who has made 32 consecutive NFL starts, admitted he didn’t know what to think at first. “So I just said: ‘That’s a little bizarre because Mark (Sanchez) is our guy (at quarterback).’”

In the next couple minutes, however, everything became crystal clear to Slauson, the analytical son of a Lincoln high school principal. “The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me,” he said. “I thought about what type of player Tebow is and how (Tony) Sparano’s our offensive coordinator. He was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, where the Wildcat offense was made. Tim Tebow is perfect for the Wildcat, so I think it’s going to be a real asset for us.”

Saying he envisions Tebow becoming the Jets’ third-team quarterback, Slauson offered up a personal prediction Thursday after finishing a Lincoln workout in his rehabilitation from torn labrum/rotator cuff/ bicep surgery last January in New York. “Tim Tebow’s going to be a star because of the fan base he has and the following he brings,” Slauson said. “He’s the type of guy you either love or you hate, and you know what? That’s the New York mentality right there.”

After playing in a state that showed overwhelming support for Nebraska football, Slauson now plays in a large metropolitan area where “there are a lot of people who hate us and a lot of people who love us,” he said. “I’ve been called a redneck, and I’ve been called a hillbilly, and I take that as a personal compliment, even though I am not a redneck or a hillbilly.”

Slauson uses his own situation as a microscopic example of how quickly Tebow will be branded. “If he gets called an ultra-conservative Christian, I would take that as an extreme compliment if I were him,” Slauson said. “He’s striving to be a high-character and extremely motivated Christian guy, and I think whether you love it or hate it, you have to respect him for what he does.”

That applies on and off the field, according to Slauson, who watched Tebow lead Denver on a 95-yard drive and game-winning 20-yard touchdown in the final minute of the Broncos’ stunning 17-13 win over the Jets late last season.

Slauson is almost ecstatic to see the Wildcat become part of the Jets’ offense again. “My first two years in New York, we used the Wildcat all the time,” he said. “We had (former Missouri quarterback) Brad Smith, but lost him as a free agent to Buffalo, so we just ran the Wildcat a little bit last year. Losing Brad really hurt our running game. Tebow’s perfect, and I really do think he’s going to be a star here.”

If he is, don’t be surprised if I Love Tebow T-shirts (with a dominant big red heart) end up outselling the T-shirt every NY tourist has been buying for decades … the one with the simple but iconic I Love NY logo (the official New York State Tourism logo). I think I still have one of those T-shirts somewhere, so maybe it’s time to buy another. Talk about a potentially divisive city that stretches all the way to Broadway (Joe). You can bet the minute I Love Tebow T-shirts are unloaded in boxes and go on sale near a downtown street corner, you can expect I Hate Tebow T-shirts to pop up in a New York minute … almost guaranteed.

Send a comment or story idea to ryork@huskers.com

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