Evangelical football star Tim Tebow thanked Jesus Christ after leading the Denver Broncos to an 18–15 overtime win over the Miami Dolphins in Florida Sunday, not giving in to critics who are averse to his open display of his Christian faith.
“First off, I have to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and my teammates … they believed in me for more than 60 minutes,” Athlon Sports quoted Tebow as saying right after the surprise win.
It was a dramatic victory. During the first 54 minutes, Tebow’s play was far from impressive. But then it was as if Tebow had suddenly realized the expectations his fans have from the National Football League player who does not shy away from giving glory to God.
“You can’t lose confidence in yourself or you’ve lost already,” Tebow, son of missionaries to the Philippines, said. “When you get knocked down, you’ve got to keep getting back up.”
When less than six minutes were left and the Miami Dolphins were focusing on defense, Tebow rose to the challenge, rallying the Broncos to two touchdowns.
When Denver lined up for the 2-point attempt for overtime, the Dolphins spread their defense across the field. Tebow ran off between the players, untouched, for the conversion. In overtime, Matt Prater kicked a 52-yard field goal, sealing the victory.
Two days before the game, Jeff Darlington, a reporter at nfl.com, said Tebow “has become one of sports’ most polarizing figures.” “Thousands love him to a degree rarely seen,” he wrote. “The same, though, can be said about the degree to which a massive group also hates him… There exists a website called ‘TebowHaters.com’ and a Facebook page dubbed ‘I hate Tim Tebow.’”
“It really blows my mind,” the reporter quoted Dolphins center Mike Pouncey, as saying. “You talk about a guy that’s in the church, doesn’t do drugs, doesn’t drink alcohol, lives right, won the Heisman, won the national championship in college,” said Pouncey, who spent three seasons as an offensive lineman for Tebow at the University of Florida.
Tebow’s acclaim includes being the first college sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy and the first college football player to both rush and pass for 20 touchdowns in a season.
“Maybe people don’t like the fact that he has accomplished so much,” Dolphins running back Reggie Bush told Darlington. “And maybe some people just don’t think he’s a good quarterback. Everyone has an opinion … People look for a reason to hate you. With Tebow, though, it’s almost like they think it’s too good to be true.”
Tebow has cared little about his critics.
At college in Florida, Tebow frequently wore biblical verses on his eye black. In the 2009 Bowl Championship Series, he wore “John 3:16” on his eye paint, reportedly causing 92 million people to search the verse on Google. Later, Tebow switched to “Proverbs 3:5-6,” again causing 3.43 million searches of the verse together with “Tim Tebow.” The NFL, however, later banned writing on the eye black.