2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Thanks to loyal following, Tebowmania transcends

    2012-03-23 04:37

(Eds: Adds AP Photos.)
By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer

Florida graduate and lifelong Gators fan Mike Beattie followed every development of the Tim Tebow trade. After it finally ended, his wife turned to him and said, ``Do we have to start rooting for the Jets?''

``I guess so,'' he responded.

And there it is: the definition of Tebowmania.

Many of the same people who adored Tebow during his four years in Gainesville, Fla., followed everything he did in Denver. And now that the quarterback has been traded to the New York Jets, they almost certainly will do the same. Even if it is the hated Jets.

``He transcends cities and teams,'' said Randy Echevarria, president of the Jacksonville Beach Gator Club. ``It just doesn't matter to Tebow fans.''

And there are legions of them - and it's a group that's ever growing.

His flocks of fans have as much to do with his faith and image as his football skills. A devout Christian, Tebow has been a role model since his days at Florida, when he led the Gators to two national championships and captured the 2007 Heisman Trophy.

Between mission trips overseas, prison ministry, hospital visits, charity work and fan events, Tebow has become one of professional sport's most compelling - and polarizing - athletes.

His ardent supporters praise his good deeds and eagerly point out that he has won football games at every level since Pop Warner. He became must-see TV last season while winning seven of his first eight starts, many of them in come-from-behind fashion, and converted nonbelievers.

Sales of his jersey ranked second in the NFL in 2011, behind only league MVP Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, and could be found at stadiums thousands of miles from Denver. His every move drew attention, none bigger than his sideline prayer that set off the ``Tebowing'' craze.

But Tebow critics also lurk around every corner, waiting for him to fail. They mocked his unorthodox throwing motion and his paltry completion percentage (46.5), and dissected every in-game facial expression from coach John Fox and executive John Elway.

The bottom line, though, was Tebow got attention from people everywhere.

``He's humble, works his tail off, is quick with a smile and has a larger-than-life personality,'' Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said. ``He's just a good person, and he stands for all the right things.

``Religiously, no matter what side you're on, you realize he's a good human being who represents his faith and his family in the right way. He always represented the Gators in the right way, and he's a guy that Gator fans will always love.''

No doubt many Broncos fans feel the same way.

Valda Edson, a 13-year-old girl from Parker, Colo., was having trouble dealing with news of Tebow's departure from Denver. So she decided to write him a letter.

``I don't know too much about football, but I know for sure you're an amazing player,'' she wrote. ``Whichever team you end up on I will root for you. ... I hope you go to a great team and win. I'm so glad you came to the Broncos. Denver got a taste of Tebow. Just to let you know, I will always cheer for you. Love you. I hope to meet you someday.''

With Tebow on the move, fans in Denver are making a last dash for memorabilia.

Eric LaBeaux, who works at Sportsfan in Littleton, Colo., said the sporting goods store sold every remaining Tebow jersey this week.

``It's amazing,'' he said. ``I've been a Broncos fan since the `80s. I've watched their good and bad. I wasn't a huge fan, per se, but I like what he did for the community. In our store, he's made us a mint. You don't get sports guys like that anymore - upstanding.''

He's going to make money for stores in the Big Apple, too.

At the Jets Shop in midtown Manhattan on Thursday, a steady stream of customers stopped by hoping to buy Tebow jerseys. The store didn't have any premade ones yet, so many fans took advantage of a sale on personalized apparel to make their own Tebow jerseys.

And that's before he had even picked up a playbook.

Amid pressure from fans, Tebow took over as Denver's quarterback following a 1-4 start last season. He led the Broncos to the playoffs for the first time in six years.

In the postseason, Tebow threw the game-winning touchdown pass on the first play of overtime to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 29-23. Denver lost the following week at New England, 45-10. Although he energized the team, Tebow's long, looping delivery led to some accuracy issues. And with his eagerness to run, he's hardly the prototypical pocket passer.

His fans don't care.

``It's interesting that people keep saying he can't play in the NFL and yet teams are lining up to get him,'' Echevarria said.

Indeed, Tebow's hometown Jaguars and the St. Louis Rams showed interest. Many figured he would be lock to land in Jacksonville, where his fame surely would boost sluggish ticket sales and make the team relevant nationally for the first time in five years.

But in the end, Tebow went to the Jets in exchange for fourth- and sixth-round draft picks. The Broncos also received a seventh-rounder in return.

Some Tebow fans question the destination.

``That's got to be probably the toughest thing for Tebow,'' said Mike McBride, a member of the Clay County Gator Club outside Jacksonville. ``One of the most critical cities in sports is New York, worse than any place in the nation. If they're winning, fine. If they're losing, they want you tarred and feathered and sent packing.''

But McBride, whose wife, daughter and daughter-in-law all proudly wore No. 15 Broncos jerseys in Jaguars country, also believes Tebow could use the larger platform to better share his faith.

``He's different from everyone else,'' McBride said. ``I'll always watch Tebow hoping he's an anomaly in a league where so many guys get to the top and get the big purse and either get in trouble or don't play to the big purse. This kid is full motor. He might not be the best quarterback, but it's not because he's not giving full effort.''

The region that might have the toughest time dealing with Tebow's latest stop is South Florida, where the Dolphins are king and the Gators rank closely behind in the football-fervent state.

Can those Dolphins fans who love Tebow really root for him now that he plays for the AFC East rival Jets?

``I was hoping he would wind up going to the Dolphins,'' said Henry Rivera, a Miami native now playing baseball at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa. ``And now that he's playing against our biggest rival, it's heartbreaking.''

Teammate Trevor Freeman, who was sitting a row behind Rivera as they watched the New York Yankees play an intrasquad game in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, was quick to chime in.

``It's not about the Jets; it's about Tim Tebow!'' Freeman said.

Another teammate, Will Palmerton, lived in Gainesville last year and is a Gators fan.

``I don't know if he's going to quite fit in,'' Palmerton said. ``A better fit would've been Jacksonville. I mean, I'll still root for him ... maybe not for the Jets to win, but for him to do well.''

Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, who went to graduate school in Gainesville, expects Tebow to experience some culture shock in New York. He also feels there will be some conflicted Tebow fans.

``Oh, I'm sure there will be,'' he said. ``Sure will.''

The Beatties are among those.

Mike Beattie's initial reaction when he learned Tebow was landing with the Jets?

``I was disgusted,'' said Beattie, a CPA in Tampa. ``I just thought the Jets would be a horrible place for him. They have a loud-mouth, obnoxious coach and a divided locker room. That whole franchise is a mess. I could pick 25 other teams that would be a better fit. The Jets didn't seem to make any sense.''

But Tebow's there now, for better or worse, leaving Beattie no choice.

``I want him to do well,'' Beattie said. ``If he doesn't play, then I'm not going to care. But it he gets on the field, then I'm going to root for him with everything I've got.''

---(equals)

AP Sports Writers Rachel Cohen in New York, Pat Graham and Arnie Stapleton in Denver, and Ben Walker in Tampa, Fla., contributed to this report.

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Dez BryantFeb 26 09:03a

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant is likely to receive the franchise tag because the team is hesitant to sign him long term due to a lack of trust off [ More ]

Peyton ManningFeb 25 09:23p

The Denver Broncos and representatives for QB Peyton Manning are working on revising the veteran's contract, according to multiple league sources. He is scheduled to draw a $19 million [ More ]

Reggie BushFeb 25 05:33p

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush has been cut Wednesday, Feb. 25.

A.J. HawkFeb 25 04:43p

Green Bay Packers LB A.J. Hawk was released Wednesday, Feb. 25. The move will save them $3.5 million against the salary cap in 2015.

Jacoby JonesFeb 25 12:33p

Baltimore Ravens WR Jacoby Jones was released Wednesday, Feb. 25.

Peyton HillisFeb 25 10:43a

New York Giants RB Peyton Hillis was released Wednesday, Feb. 25. The move saves $945,000 on the 2015 salary cap.

Dez BryantFeb 24 10:33p

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant's NFL career could be in jeopardy if a video he allegedly appears is as bad as it sounds. A source said the 'incriminating video [ More ]

Jake LongFeb 24 09:23p

The St. Louis Rams are likely to release OT Jake Long this offseason for savings against the salary cap, according to beat writer Nick Wagoner.

Mathias KiwanukaFeb 24 03:33p

New York Giants DE Mathias Kiwanuka has been released Tuesday, Feb. 24.

DeAngelo WilliamsFeb 24 12:23p

Free-agent RB DeAngelo Williams (Panthers) said he was not upset when the Carolina Panthers told him last week that he'd be released. Williams told Charlotte's WBTV that DE Greg [ More ]

Adrian PetersonFeb 23 06:13p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson's father denied a report that Peterson no longer wants to play for Minnesota. Peterson's father said Peterson is still open to a return to [ More ]

Ted Ginn Jr.Feb 23 04:53p

Arizona Cardinals WR Ted Ginn Jr. was released Monday, Feb. 23.

Adrian PetersonFeb 23 02:52p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson's situation with the team worsened during the NFL scouting combine as his agent and members of Minnesota's front office had a heated verbal altercation, [ More ]

Victor CruzFeb 21 10:22a

New York Giants WR Victor Cruz (knee) looks good as he continues to recover from a torn right pateller tendon in his knee, according to general manager Jerry Reese. [ More ]

R. Griffin IIIFeb 20 02:52p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III will enter the 2015 season as the team's starting quarterback, and general manager Bruce Allen thinks Griffin's ceiling in the NFL remains high. [ More ]

Devonta FreemanFeb 20 08:42a

Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman fits well in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's scheme, according to head coach Dan Quinn. 'My first impression: I can feel the quickness,' Quinn said [ More ]

Victor CruzFeb 19 07:12p

New York Giants WR Victor Cruz (knee) may commence running shortly, according to head coach Tom Coughlin. Cruz is recovering from a torn right patellar tendon in his right knee.

Andre EllingtonFeb 19 05:12p

Arizona Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (foot) remains the focal point of the offense, according to Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians. Ellington split the injured tendon in his left foot, [ More ]

C.J. AndersonFeb 19 02:22p

Denver Broncos RB C.J. Anderson finished the year as the team's No. 1 running back and made the Pro Bowl, but new head coach Gary Kubiak said Anderson must [ More ]

James CaseyFeb 19 02:22p

Philadelphia Eagles TE James Casey has been released.

Reggie WayneFeb 19 01:52p

Indianapolis Colts impending free-agent WR Reggie Wayne has not informed the Colts on if he wants to play again next season, according to general manager Ryan Grigson.

Marshawn LynchFeb 19 01:02p

Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch continues to ponder if he'll return for another season, and general manager John Schneider said he wouldn't be surprised if Lynch chose to retire. [ More ]

Zach MettenbergerFeb 19 03:13a

Tennessee Titans QB Zach Mettenberger has the backing of the coaching staff, but they have not committed to him as the starter for 2015. General manager Ruston Webster said [ More ]

Jay CutlerFeb 18 02:53p

Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler did not receive a vote of confidence from head coach John Fox. Fox said the team is still evaluating the position. Fox said he [ More ]

Charles JohnsonFeb 18 02:53p

Minnesota Vikings WR Charles X. Johnson is 'far and away our best receiver,' according to offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Johnson emerged as QB Teddy Bridgewater's No. 1 target in [ More ]

R. Griffin IIIFeb 18 01:23p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III will go into the season as the team's starting starting quarterback, according to head coach Jay Gruden.

Michael CrabtreeFeb 18 01:33a

San Francisco 49ers impending free-agent WR Michael Crabtree was frustrated with his role at the end of last season, and he recently removed any mention of the 49ers from [ More ]

Steve JohnsonFeb 18 01:33a

San Francisco 49ers WR Stevie Johnson might be a clear starting candidate for the 2015 season if impending free-agents WR Anquan Boldin and/or WR Michael Crabtree are not brought [ More ]

Trent RichardsonFeb 17 10:53p

Indianapolis Colts RB Trent Richardson missed the team's walkthrough and flight for the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots. He was suspended two games without pay for [ More ]

Brennan WilliamsFeb 17 05:33p

Free-agent OT Brennan Williams (Texans) signed an undisclosed deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars Tuesday, Feb. 17.

S. RichardsonFeb 17 03:03p

Free-agent CB Shaquille Richardson (Steelers) recently signed a one-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. Financial terms were not disclosed.

A.J. JenkinsFeb 17 02:13p

The Kansas City Chiefs waived WR A.J. Jenkins Tuesday, Feb. 17.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group