ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Tim Tebow doesn't know when he'll start in the NFL. He can't wait to begin repaying Josh McDaniels, though.
"I want to be a great quarterback," the former Heisman Trophy winner said after the Denver Broncos selected him with the 25th pick in the NFL draft Thursday night.
Tebow pledged that "for the next few years, my mindset is going to be to repay him for what he did for me, believing in me. Just like it was when I was at Florida. My biggest joy was doing things for Coach Meyer, winning championships, being able to help him."
The mystery man of this draft, Tebow was a winner for four years with the Gators, including two national championships and the 2007 Heisman, yet his unorthodox style and strange throwing motion made for widely divided opinions on him.
McDaniels believes Tebow will blossom in the NFL.
Tebow, he said, "has all the traits you're looking for in terms of toughness, competitiveness, he's intelligent, he's won a lot of games, he's a leader, he works hard, he's got all the intangibles you look for in a player at that position."
"The Denver Broncos are getting a winner," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "Tim will show on the field what he is capable of doing and more than anything Tim has a competitive fire that will constantly push him to get better and do whatever he can to help his team win."
McDaniels hopes he found the long-term replacement for Jay Cutler. In his rookie season as a head coach, McDaniels feuded with Cutler a year ago and traded him to Chicago.
Yet, McDaniels insisted Kyle Orton is still his starting quarterback — and chances are good that Brady Quinn is still the backup and Tom Brandstater is still No. 3.
McDaniels promised that Tebow will get the same opportunity as the others to win the starting job.
"That's not even something I'm thinking about," Tebow said. "What I'm thinking about is going in there and learning the offense, competing, working hard and being the first one in and last one to leave, showing them I love this and love what I do, and thank you so much for taking me and I'm not going to let you down."
With his athleticism, Tebow could play other positions — say, tight end or on special teams — and he could be used in wildcat formations right away to take advantage of his running prowess even if he doesn't supplant Orton.
"Tim's a player that's capable of doing different things. Could be a game-plan type thing if we determine is best early in his career," McDaniels said. "He's a guy that gives you an opportunity to create some packages like that and if you want to do that, then you can get creative."
Although he has started to correct his sidearm throwing motion, Tebow will have to adjust to taking snaps under center and dropping back while dodging the pass rush after operating almost exclusively out of the shotgun in college.
Tebow's mechanics and throwing motion were dissected ad nauseam in the weeks leading up to the draft, and he insisted he embraced the critiques and criticism.
"I loved it, because it was so much football," Tebow said. "I enjoyed that. I enjoyed the working process and all the critics and negativity, it only pushed me that much more and made me work that much harder. I can honestly say that I think that made me better.
"I think that was a positive thing for me, to be honest with you. I believed in myself. I believed in the people that are around me and supporting me. I thank my quarterback coaches, for the work they put in, in constantly getting better," Tebow said.
Three spots before picking Tebow, the Broncos selected wide receiver Demaryius Thomas of Georgia Tech with the 22nd pick. The Broncos needed a big, athletic wide receiver after trading two-time Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall to the Miami Dolphins last week, and at 6-foot-3 and 224 pounds, Thomas fit the bill.
Then, the Broncos traded three picks to Baltimore for the Ravens' first-round pick. They gave up choices in the second (No. 43), third (No. 70) and fourth (No. 114) rounds to move back into the first round and draft Florida's southpaw quarterback with the most scrutinized selection of the draft.