Then Florida Coach Urban Meyer, left, had the upper hand in recruiting Tim… (Joe Rimkus Jr. / McClatchy-Tribune )
Back when he was USC's coach, Pete Carroll had high hopes of recruiting Tim Tebow.
Tebow and his father visited Los Angeles and went to the 2004 UCLA-USC game at the Rose Bowl, where Reggie Bush punctuated a 66-yard touchdown run with a flip into the end zone.
"They were phenomenal," recalled Tebow, who was hosted by Mark Sanchez, Patrick Turner and Jeff Byers on his visit. "It was exciting. It was a good trip."
That's what Carroll thought. So he was optimistic when he made a trip to the Tebow family farm outside Jacksonville, Fla., bringing assistants Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian with him.
"Everything was going great, and we were real excited about the home visit," Carroll said. "The family lives way out in the country. We're driving down this long dirt road, you can't see the numbers on the boxes. Houses are all spread out, and these big open fields."
Then, he spotted it.
"As we're coming down the road there's this huge Gator helmet mailbox. I'm thinking, 'Oh, no, I hope this isn't the house.' Sure enough, that was. I was thinking, 'This is not a great chance for us right here.'"
Even though Tebow and his brothers were there, along with their parents, Carroll was a little deflated by that mailbox.
"It was a great visit, but it felt kind of hollow," he said. "Every day they go out and get their mail and they're saluting the Gator helmet."
Tebow, who went on to win a Heisman Trophy for the Gators, laughed this week when reminded of the USC recruiting story.
"The helmet had been there since I was born," he said. "My mom and dad went to Florida, were huge Florida fans, and my granddad on my mom's side, his dream was to see Florida one day win an SEC championship. He died before that happened. But they were huge Florida fans.
"Wherever I went, they were going to be fans of where I went, and then they were going to go back to being Gator fans when we were done."