ENGLEWOOD, COLO. (AP) - By now, everybody knows Tim Tebow, the quirky quarterback. Hardworking work in progress, imperfect passer getting by on more will than skill, bigger on moxie than mechanics.
Then there’s Tim Tebow, the person. Popular and polarizing, more like a politician than NFL player. Galvanizes backers and backbiters alike. People love him or loathe him.
There he is on TV, professing his faith and talking about how he was more excited to build a children’s hospital in the Philippines than he was in leading the Denver Broncos to an improbable last-minute win over the New York Jets.
Even though the Broncos were 1-4 without him and 4-1 with him, including two fourth-quarter comebacks, Tebow’s detractors call him a phony, fake and scripted, a goody two-shoes. This, despite guiding the Broncos back to relevancy at 5-5, a game behind front-running Oakland in the AFC West.
Yet his teammates and coaches, who see him when the cameras and recorders aren’t around, say he’s a sincere, aw-shucks, praise-the-Lord-and-pass-the-football (at least try) kind of guy, with the world at his feet and his head nowhere near the clouds.
“He really is genuine and the emotion and the passion that you see him out there playing with, he has the same passion off the field with those type of things, the charity things and the missionary things,” receiver Eddie Royal said. “He just lives that way. Like I said, there’s nothing fake about Tim Tebow.”
“He’s real,” coach John Fox agreed. “He walks the walk. A guy like that in today’s society, in my mind, ought to be celebrated, not scrutinized to the level that he is.”
“He represents the game of football the right way, by his play, by his emotion, by his enthusiasm,” Royal said. “He’s the perfect example of the type of guy that you want to be off the field.”
Still, for a guy who was raised on a farm, homeschooled and listens to Sinatra to pump himself up before games, Tebow has plenty of detractors.
“The only reason I would think people wouldn’t like him is because they don’t believe that he’s really all that he is,” Royal said. “But to tell you the truth, he really is, being around him every day. What you see is what you get with him. There’s nothing fake about him.”
Champ Bailey has the same take on Tebow.
“You know the thing is, there are reasons that people could dislike other athletes,” Bailey said. “Like, say for instance, a lot of people could love T.O. But there are reasons for people not to like him, and you can understand why people don’t like him. But when people don’t like Tim, you try to understand why, you don’t.”
Some people have a problem with Tebow wearing his religion on his sleeve.
For example, former Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer told KGME-AM in Phoenix this week: “I think he’s a winner and I respect that about him. I think that when he accepts the fact that we know that he loves Jesus Christ, then I think I’ll like him a little better. I don’t hate him because of that. I just would rather not have to hear that every time he takes a good snap or makes a good hand-off.”