NEW YORK - Tim Tebow needed only two years of college to graduate to Heisman Trophy winner, putting the sophomore in a class by himself.
Florida's folk-hero quarterback with the rugged running style and magnetic personality won the Heisman last night to become the first sophomore or freshman to take college football's most prestigious award.
Since 1935, when Jay Berwanger of Chicago won the first Heisman, every winner had been a junior or senior - until Tebow, who picked up quite a souvenir on his first trip to New York.
"I am fortunate, fortunate for a lot of things," Tebow said. "God truly blessed me, and this just adds on. It's an honor. I'm so happy to be here."
He beat out Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, the first player since 1949 to finish second in consecutive seasons. Tebow received 1,957 points and 462 first-place votes to McFadden's 1,703 points and 291 first-place votes.
Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan was third, and Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel fourth.
Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, a Penn Charter graduate, finished seventh in the voting, receiving nine first-place votes.
A year after Tebow helped Florida win a national title, and in his first season as the Gators' starter, the chiseled 235-pound quarterback in a fullback's body put together a historic campaign. He's the first major-college player to run for 20 touchdowns and throw 20 TD passes in the same season.
"When I get back to the University of Florida, we're going to have fun," Tebow said.
In an unpredictable college football season, the Heisman race was as unsettled as the national-title chase. Tebow emerged as the front-runner even though Florida (9-3) stumbled early.
Six of the last seven Heisman winners picked up their trophies on the way to playing in the national championship game. Tebow won't get that chance this season, but Heisman voters didn't hold Florida's failure to defend its national title against him.
McFadden slumped in October before finishing with a huge November, capping his season with a spectacular performance - 206 yards rushing, three touchdowns and a TD pass - in the Razorbacks' 50-48 triple-overtime win over No. 1 LSU. It seems doubtful the junior with sprinter's speed will return to Arkansas next year to make another Heisman run, not with an NFL team likely to make him a top-10 draft pick.
Brennan and Daniel each passed for more than 4,000 yards and led their teams to breakout seasons.
But no player was more important to his team than Tebow, who joined Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel as the only Florida players to win the Heisman Trophy.
The closest Tebow came to a bad game came in a 28-24 loss at LSU, when he completed 12 of 26 passes for 158 yards, throwing for two scores and running for another. He finished with a school-record 3,970 yards of total offense and accounted for 51 touchdowns.
Last season, in a part-time role as a complement to Chris Leak, Tebow played with a fiery passion. He bowled over defenders and bounced around the field, fists pumping and arms waving.
He ran for 469 yards and eight touchdowns as a freshman, throwing only enough to take advantage of defenses stacked to stop him from running.
This season, the Gators became Tebow's team, and at times he was a one-man offense. Gators fans can rejoice in that Tebow has promised them two more seasons. He has said he has no plans to leave school after his junior season.