“Every day, he’d come to me,” Meyer said, “ ‘Hey, I want you to do this with me.’ I’d say, ‘Tim, I got third downs, I’m working on red zone.’ ‘Come on, just get in the car, we’re going.’ And so I’d go to the hospital with him. I mean, every day. It was just routine. ‘But Tim, I got to go call this recruit.’ After a while, I just said, ‘Okay, Tim, where are we going today?’
In the Broncos’ locker room, Tebow picked at his snack and tried to explain. “In today’s society,” he said, “people look up to football players and they’re put on a pedestal. Why? I don’t know. We love the sport. It doesn’t make you any better or any more special than someone who’s working right down the street. I think to have that perspective is important. It keeps you humble and you realize, yes, we’re paid well and we might have a lot of people watch us do this, but it doesn’t make us any more special than other people.”
‘A refreshingly simple person’
So who is Tim Tebow?
Tebow moved to a Denver suburb shortly after the Broncos made him the 25th overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. He lives with his two brothers. Robby handles Tebow’s marketing. Peter is in a seminary. His parents and friends visit often. He has no girlfriend. He works out, plays games and listens to country music. Roller coasters make him sick.
“People always want a flaw in the guy,” said Howard, the former high school coach. “He must have some weakness, some major character problems. But he’s a sincere, solid guy with great values, work ethic. He’s not a phony. He is who he says he is.”
“To me, he’s a refreshingly simple person,” said Danny Wuerffel, another Heisman winner from Florida who’s been close to Tebow for years.
“To me, there’s Tim the person,” he continued, “and everyone I’ve ever known enjoys being around him because he’s kind, polite and fun to be around. And then there’s this Tebow-mania, which includes his athletic ability, his faith, his demeanor, his passion, all of that caught in a society that’s already polarized. . . . At heart he’s a genuine, simple guy who loves the Lord, loves his family and loves to compete in football.”
Tebow, not surprisingly, has a simple description of himself. “Hopefully, people see through interviews or how I act that I’m someone that tries to put the Lord first, cares about other people, wants to do good, wants to make a difference in other people’s lives and also cares about playing sports, cares about my teammates. What I really try to get across is being genuine and being real, and hopefully, that’s what people take away.”
The football world, of course, focuses on his abilities — or inabilities — as a quarterback. In many ways, he was put in a trap by an organization that never believed he was really the answer. His wins have been attributed to sheer will, to miracles, to everything but Tebow’s talents. And that’s because despite the wins and the playoff berth — Denver‘s first since 2005 — Tebow has shown that he can’t play the position the way it’s been traditionally played in the NFL.
Nevertheless, Tebow seems oblivious to the fact that if he stumbles Sunday, judgment on his abilities will be passed across the country.
“The thing is, he’s going to put more pressure on himself than anything that could possibly come from the outside,” Mullen said. “I don’t think it could ever get to him. He wants to win more than anybody else out there.”
Whitaker, who helped write “Through My Eyes,” noticed that, too. In the game of hide-and-seek. In Wiffle ball home run derbies in the backyard. In everything Tebow did.
Subsequent visits weren’t much different. Tebow didn’t change. When Whitaker returned to Denver for another round of interviews for the book, Tebow’s brother Robby informed the writer, “We’re not playing hide-and-seek any more.
“We got Nerf guns now.”