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

Latavius MurrayNov 21 10:32a

Oakland Raiders RB Latavius Murray (concussion) has earned himself a larger role in the offense, according to interim head coach Tony Sparano. His concussion, obviously, will dictate when that [ More ]

LeGarrette BlountNov 21 10:32a

New England Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount was not signed by the team to replace RB Jonas Gray as the between-the-tackles runner. Blount's presence gives the team another tough inside [ More ]

Jeremy HillNov 21 10:02a

Cincinnati Bengals RB Jeremy Hill will be the leader in a 65-35 split of the carries with RB Giovani Bernard in Week 12, in the opinion of beat writer Paul Dehner Jr.

Emmanuel SandersNov 20 07:42p

Denver Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders (concussion) has done conditioning work and will be evaluated again Friday, Nov. 21.

Eric KushNov 20 07:03p

The Kansas City Chiefs have declared WR A.J. Jenkins, QB Aaron Murray, CB Christopher Owens, WR Donnie Avery, C Eric Kush, CB Jamell Fleming, OT Laurent Duvernay-Tardif inactive for Week 12.

Matt McGloinNov 20 07:03p

The Oakland Raiders have declared CB Carlos Rogers, TE David Ausberry, OG Gabe Jackson, SS Jonathan Dowling, QB Matt McGloin, OG Tony Bergstrom, CB Travis Carrie inactive for Week 12.

Charles ClayNov 20 06:42p

Miami Dolphins TE Charles Clay (knee) did not practice Thursday, Nov. 20, after being limited Wednesday, Nov. 19.

Tauren PooleNov 20 06:42p

The New Orleans Saints released RB Tauren Poole Thursday, Nov. 20.

Jordan CameronNov 20 06:12p

Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) did not practice for the second straight day Thursday, Nov. 20.

Arian FosterNov 20 05:52p

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (groin) did not practice Thursday, Nov. 20, after being limited the previous day.

Pierre ThomasNov 20 05:42p

New Orleans Saints RB Pierre Thomas (rib, shoulder) was limited in practice Thursday, Nov. 20. Thomas has missed the last four games, but he said there's a chance that [ More ]

Jerick McKinnonNov 20 05:32p

Minnesota Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon (back) was limited in practice Thursday, Nov. 20.

Jimmy SmithNov 20 04:32p

Baltimore Ravens CB Jimmy Smith (foot) said Thursday, Nov. 20, that a Lisfranc injury is the reason he is out for the rest of the season.

Montee BallNov 20 04:22p

Denver Broncos RBs Montee Ball (groin) and Ronnie Hillman (foot) both did not practice for the second straight day Thursday, Nov. 20.

Ronnie HillmanNov 20 04:22p

Denver Broncos RBs Montee Ball (groin) and Ronnie Hillman (foot) both did not practice for the second straight day Thursday, Nov. 20.

Larry FitzgeraldNov 20 04:12p

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee) is optimistic he'll be able to play Sunday, Nov. 23. He went through rehabilitation Wednesday, Nov. 19 and Thursday, Nov. 20.

James AndersonNov 20 04:02p

The Atlanta Falcons signed LB James Anderson (Titans) Thursday, Nov. 20. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Josh GordonNov 20 04:02p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon was amped up and excited to take part in his first practice with the team this year Wednesday, Nov. 19, but QB Brian Hoyer [ More ]

Charles ClayNov 20 03:02p

Miami Dolphins TE Charles Clay (knee) is expected to be a game-time decision for Week 12 because of a knee injury.

Dwayne AllenNov 20 02:32p

Indianapolis Colts TE Dwayne Allen (ankle) missed his second straight day of practice Thursday, Nov. 20, and The Indianapolis Star's Zak Keefer would bet on Allen sitting out this weekend against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Larry FitzgeraldNov 20 02:12p

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee) was not participating during the media-access portion of practice Thursday, Nov. 20.

Julius ThomasNov 20 01:32p

Denver Broncos TE Julius Thomas (ankle) is not participating in practice Thursday, Nov. 20.

Emmanuel SandersNov 20 01:22p

Denver Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders (concussion) is not participating in practice Thursday, Nov. 20.

Giovani BernardNov 20 01:12p

Cincinnati Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (clavicle, hip) is participating in practice Thursday, Nov. 20.

Reggie BushNov 20 01:02p

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle) said he is on track to play against the New England Patriots in Week 12. He was not able to play in Week 11 because of the injury.

Josh GordonNov 20 12:32p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon is expected to be limited in Week 12 because it will be his first game of the season, and the team does not want [ More ]

Adrian PetersonNov 20 11:52a

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has officially appealed his suspension, according to a source. The NFL Players Association is looking for a neutral arbitrator to hear the case, but [ More ]

Arian FosterNov 20 09:13a

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (groin) is likely share carries with RB Alfred Blue if he plays in Week 12.

LeGarrette BlountNov 20 08:32a

The New England Patriots signed free-agent RB LeGarrette Blount (Steelers) to a two-year deal for the veteran's minimum plus incentives Thursday, Nov. 20.

Giovani BernardNov 20 01:13a

Cincinnati Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (clavicle, hip) will be eased back into the lineup, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said Wednesday, Nov. 19. 'I think we've got to work him [ More ]

Jeremy HillNov 20 01:13a

Cincinnati Bengals RB Jeremy Hill is likely to get a bulk of the carries in Week 12 against the Houston Texans, according to beat writer Geoff Hobson, despite the [ More ]

LeGarrette BlountNov 19 09:33p

Free-agent RB LeGarrette Blount (Steelers) went unclaimed on waivers Wednesday, Nov. 19, and is now an unrestricted free agent available to sign with any club.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group