After his record-breaking time at the University of Florida, quarterback Tim Tebow appeared set to take the NFL by storm. He became the first sophomore in college football history to be awarded the Heisman Trophy in 2007, then led his team to become national champions in 2008. As his Heisman bio recounts, he ended his college career with five NCAA stats records, as well as 14 in the SEC and 28 at the University of Florida. After being drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2010, he shot into the national spotlight when he took over for starting quarterback Kyle Orton after the team got off to a lousy 1-4 start. Tebow quickly turned things around for the Broncos, for a while at least. According to Fandom, he led the team to the playoffs that year, where they had a spectacular win over the Pittsburgh Steelers when Tebow threw an 80-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to receiver Demaryius Thomas in overtime.
Although that steam wasn’t enough to get them past Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, things appeared to be looking up for Tebow. Former Bronco QB and then VP of football operations John Elway told a press conference at the end of the season that Tebow had “earned the right” to be the team’s quarterback, but, as The Washington Post reported, it was only for the coming training camp. Elway ensured reporters that the Broncos were still “in the market to find more quarterbacks.”
Tim Tebow had a bit too much faith in his image
As “Tebowmania” gripped the nation, it seemed to grip one person in particular in a truly spectacular fashion: Tim Tebow himself. Powered by his ostentatious sideline prayers and catalyzed by his 2010 playoffs run, Tebow’s faith-based fame seemed to go to his head. As the Daily Mail reported, one former Broncos staffer called the holier-than-thou persona “the most self-centered humble guy I’ve ever met.” This attitude quickly turned his teammates and coaching staff against him. Tebow was so full of himself that he began to charge $50,000 to speak at churches. Other Broncos bluntly said that Tebow was “simply awful.”
In his 2020 biography Elway: A Relentless Life, sports journalist Jason Cole said that the fanbase Tebow brought with him most likely played a role in the controversial decision to draft him in the first round “when most teams in the league didn’t think Tebow was anything close to a first-round-caliber pick.” Tebow wasn’t a passing quarterback, and some NFL teams thought he’d be put to better use as a running back. “His strong faith, great story from birth, and feats on the field in high school and college made him a hero and role model in the Christian community,” wrote Cole. But as it turned out, Tebow’s legions of disciples couldn’t do anything to help him on the field. The simple fact remained: Tebow couldn’t complete passes.
Tebow's game needed a different kind of savior
Tebow never seemed to have a problem milking his image as a handsome savior of football fans’ weary souls. He even took it somewhat literally when an interview with GQ featured a photo of him shirtless and with his arms outstretched in a manner that radio host Craig Carlton described as “sexy Jesus,” according to the Christian Post. Carlton called him a “fraud,” but Tebow’s acolytes remained as faithful as ever, posting their praises to him on social media accounts. And why would they have a problem? Apparently some Christians were fine with him kneeling on the field before each game and milking megachurches for all they’re worth, so what’s the big deal about a beefcake magazine pose?
Although his sanctimonious image was enough to redeem him in the eyes of his fanatics, it did nothing to help his game. After being let go from the Broncos in 2012, he bounced around from the Jets to the Patriots to the Eagles before finally having his football come-to-Jesus moment: He was not going to make it in the NFL. But hey, there’s more than one path to athletic redemption, right? As ESPN reported in early 2020, Tebow had switched to baseball in a move that his agent agreed sounded “like a publicity stunt, but nothing could be further from the truth.” And if there’s one thing Tebow claims to know, it’s the truth.
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