He is a 24-year-old with a best-selling autobiography, an unabashed defender of his own virginity as recently as his college days, an evangelist in cleats who kneels in prayer on the field so intently that he sparks social media debates about whether his behavior is appropriate.
And yet the words most often used to describe Tim Tebow, quarterback for the Broncos, are “modest,” “genuine,” “leader” and, of course, “winner.” The anti-Kardashian, he nevertheless sits at the pinnacle of pop culture, sports and religion right now, and there may never have been anything quite like him before.
“I think a subset of the population loves him because of his religious conviction,” said Brooks Holtom, a professor of management at Georgetown University’s McDonough school of business. “But I’m thinking of my college buddies who are in Denver, they just want the team to win. Now, he probably won’t be involved in a bar-room brawl and as a dad, I appreciate that. . . . It’s low risk to allow your kids to follow him.”
Tebow makes the eighth start of his second NFL season Sunday for the Broncos, the team he has resurrected after a calamitous start with skills so unorthodox that his head coach, John Fox, has scrapped the traditional pro-football approach to the game and installed a modified, college-style offense that better suits Tebow’s skills.
In the NFL’s most passing-friendly era, when other quarterbacks regularly top 300 yards throwing in a game and occasionally surpass 400 yards, Tebow didn’t reach the 200-yard mark in a game this season until last weekend. Yet the Broncos, a team with a 1-4 record when Tebow took over as starter, have gone 6-1 since and have climbed into a first-place tie in the AFC West division.
Still, Broncos legend John Elway, the team’s two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback who now is a top club executive, sparked an angry response from Tebow supporters when he suggested last month that he wasn’t convinced Tebow had solved the team’s quarterback issues.
“People like it when experts are wrong. . . . The guy has presented an attitude, a persona that people want to see: the genuineness, the love of the game,” said Stewart McHie, director of the Masters of Science in Business Analysis program at Catholic University. “And he’s tough. He has compassion and empathy, but he’ll run over that strong safety in a heartbeat. He seems to be doing it for all the right reasons, and you have to respect that.”