At one point, Whitaker’s wife sent a text message. “Not now,” he wrote back. He called later to explain: “Sorry, I was hiding in the shower and the whole room lit up when my phone buzzed.”
“What? You were in Tim’s shower?
“No, no, no,” Whitaker explained. “I was in Peter’s shower.”
Hiding in plain sight
Tebow is not hiding. His public persona might appear more like a pencil sketch than an oil painting, but that’s not necessarily Tebow’s doing. In fact, he probably couldn’t disguise his feelings if he tried. Those who know him say the 24-year-old Tebow is the same behind closed doors as he is in front of cameras.
“Everything you see is true,” said Urban Meyer, his coach at the University of Florida.
On Friday, the Broncos had just finished their final practice before Sunday’s playoff game. For Tebow, it will be another pressure-packed affair where every errant throw and each impressive run will inspire a definitive verdict from the football world.
Tebow walked toward the shower, wearing just a white towel around his waist, and his teammates accused the pious player of using a curse word during practice. They were joking, but it wasn’t clear if Tebow understood.
“I promise,” he said, lifting his arms incredulously, “I did not say that!”
That’s not how Tebow was raised, not the image he tries to project and not the person he is. Born in the Philippines and raised in Jacksonville, Fla., Tebow grew up on a farm, the youngest of five. He had no television at home, gave up soft drinks at a young age, memorized Bible verses and played every sport possible.
An incredible talent, it wasn’t until this season — his second in the NFL — that his celebrity really surpassed his skills. He’s more like a young pop star than anything the NFL has seen in many years. While the marketing image of iconic athletes usually is carefully crafted, put before focus groups and treated like a brand, Tebow’s grew organically.
This season he had the league’s second-best selling jersey and 27th-best passer rating. According to Florida’s Bureau of Vital Statistics, from 2000 to 2007, no children born in his home state were given the first name “Tebow.” Since 2008, there have been eight.